Visiting Artists Lecture #4 - Laylah Ali
7 March 2013
I thought that Laylah Ali gave one of the most sincere and honest artist talks that I have heard. She began the talk by saying that she had recently realized that she didn't enjoy giving artist lectures anymore, and said that she thought of it as both a problem and an opportunity. This honesty in her talk delivery was very refreshing, and kept me much more interested than some artists who simply go over their work chronologically but don't show much of their own personality.
The way Laylah jumped around in her talk - from her undergraduate work, to her Greenheads collection, to her technique, etc. - kept it interesting without being too confusing, and it was nice that she incorporated more of a dialogue and allowed people to ask questions throughout her talk, instead of saving them until the end. She gave some insight into her pieces, saying that the inspiration for the Greenheads came from an interest in the body, and an interest in her own body, but that she also wanted to distance herself from the work. It was interesting how Laylah didn't seem to attached to how people perceived her work, as long as they were provoked to ask questions. One statement that stuck out to me was when she said, "There's something about me that goes into them that isn't conscious." It was almost as if the little Greenheads characters manifested themselves into her subconscious and she wasn't fully aware of them until she was in the process of actively drawing them.
Laylah's description of the meticulous work she does throughout her artistic process was also fascinating. She described her process with the Greenheads, saying that she measures and checks lines, and measures again, and mixes colors until they're absolutely perfect. Even as she was describing her process, she told us how it was driving her crazy and she didn't always even like doing it, but she kept doing it because she "wanted to see what would happen." Her little characters seem to transcend race and gender, and they are simply there on the canvas to make people question those things about our own society. I thought Laylah Ali's talk was extremely interesting and I think I got a lot out of it that I would like to apply to my future practice.