Laila Cola Weeks was born in Berkeley, grew up in Albuquerque and recently spent time in Berlin, where she worked and painted for a spell. Oil painting is her love, and if you meet her in the world, don’t be offended if she doesn’t remember your name. She has a show coming up in Albuquerque (details in the pink box below) so we thought it was a good time to ask Laila, What’s Your Deal?
1. What kind of art do you do?
Hi! My name is Laila Cola Weeks, and I am an oil painter. Lately I’ve had to admit to myself and the rest of the world that my paintings are abstract paintings. For some reason that feels weird to me. I think it’s because the boundary between abstract and representational art is blurry for me, and I don’t really like to think about art in those terms that much. But I think it’s helpful for lots of people to talk about art that way, so I’ll do it.
My current artwork could be described as (mostly abstract) objects floating in an ethereal setting. Compositionally, I might describe them as being quiet, calm, and peaceful. But there is also dynamism and tension! These qualities are achieved through contrasting imagery. The objects that float so serenely are varied—sometimes geometric and sometimes organic. For me, they are there to portray duality.
My paintings, fundamentally, are intended to celebrate the very strange experience of life as a human being on the planet Earth. To me it seems that this experience is laden with pairs of extremes that at times contradict one another and at others seem to intermingle in a most bizarre, harmonious dance. Duality is the lens through which I am able to make sense of the world, both around me and within me. I wish to acknowledge and appreciate both sides of each coin that I encounter. Life is beautiful and life is painful. Humans are capable of love and capable of cruelty. Neither descriptor contains the whole truth in either instance. Each end of any pair of extremes fortifies the other, allowing for a greater sense of understanding and meaningfulness. I aim to examine and honor the whole truth with my descriptions (in paint) of duality.
2. Tell me about your background as an artist.
I still remember the first time that I used a marker. It may be hard to believe, because I was only three, but I remember that it was a blue Crayola marker and that my mother gave me a white piece of paper to draw on, and she showed me how the marker would make a mark on the paper when you let it touch the paper or dragged it along. But the surface of the table was also white, and I was very perplexed with the notion of drawing on the paper only—in my mind, the marker could mark either the paper or the table surface.
I suppose you could say that this was the beginning of it all. In high school my art teacher Justin Bagley encouraged me to paint. And in my late teens I used oil paint for the first time. I fell in love instantly, as many people seem to. Oil paint is so thick, and it is slippery yet somehow sticky, and it reminds me of flesh, and it stays wet for so long and lets you play with it and play with it.
As for the formal side of the answer, I got my BFA from the University of New Mexico in 2008 with a concentration in painting. I have been exhibiting paintings, drawings and even some other things as much as I can since 2003. I have a website that you can look at. It’s a work of art in its own way. Also, it’s a flash site, just so you know.
3. What was the worst show you ever participated in? Dish all the juicy bits.
Oh no. I can’t go there. I don’t even know if there is one, and I really don’t have negative words for anyone who has allowed me to show work at their space or who has shown work with me. But I can talk about embarrassing artworks that I created and exhibited. Mostly a couple of nude self-portraits that were, well, just awkward. I think there are other artists who have gone through this phase. And maybe one must in order to come out on the other side. Wherever that may be.
4. Who are your favorite artists at the moment?
This question is so hard for me to answer! I think I will defend myself as follows: You know how lots of people say they’re really bad at math? Or they just hate math? Well I feel that way about history/trivia/current events. It’s like that part of my brain never developed. I personally love math! But I suppose you can’t have it all.
So in trade for my math brain, I just never spent time growing that other part of my brain that remembers dates and facts and names. I’ll see (or hear) something and find it to be beautiful and inspiring, but I won’t hold on to any information surrounding that beautiful thing. All that will remain is a soft impression of the essence of what I found to be so inspiring.
5. What’s the most helpful tip you could share with aspiring artists?
Well, I don’t know if I’m qualified to do that. I’m kind of an aspiring artist myself. But for those who are perhaps at the very onset of the artist’s path, all I’ll say is: Do your thing. Don’t worry and don’t go looking for advice. Develop your relationship with your art. You have all the answers within you, artist.
Kimo Art Gallery will be showing Laila’s paintings through January 31, 2015, in a show with Pudding Head called Floating in Place. The opening reception is Friday, December 12 from 6-9pm. We’ll see you there!