Surreal. Unorthodox. Harrowing. These are some of the words which are certainly applicable to the work of Ugly Shyla, a young woman from the bayou country of Louisiana who has fused religious iconography and truly disturbing imagery to produce a line of unique sculpture, epitomized by the Ugly Art Dolls. Her work has previously been seen in such publications as Bizarre Magazine and SPIN.
Viewing herself as something of a channeler or medium as much as a creator, Shyla is on an artistic journey that even she is sometimes at a loss to fully understand or explain. In addition to, and in support of her sculpture, she also works as an alternative model, further exploring the southern gothic themes that resonate so strongly in her work...
How did the idea for the Ugly Art Dolls come to be?
I never planned it. I never in a million years thought I'd grow up to make dolls.
You talk about being inspired by dreams and subconscious visions. Can you tell me more about that?
Like most surreal artists, my work comes from the unconscious, the subconscious, dreams, flashes of vision and things I see between waking and sleep.
I find it interesting how frank you are about being kind of in the dark when it comes to why it is that you create the dolls. Talk a little about being at a loss to explain your art or put it into words, and why that is.
I think it's because the art isn't totally "mine". Like I said, it comes from somewhere else, from another side of the veil. So I end up being in the dark about it.
I understand you're self-taught. What was that process like, did it come naturally or was it difficult?
It came very natural, like I was guided to do it. I won't lie, some of it was a bitch to learn, but it still was a natural process.
What kind of materials do you typically use to create the dolls?
Porcelain, oil-based clay, plaster, resin, ceramic glaze, china paint and anything else I can get my hands on.
What are some of the ones you are the most proud of and why?
My Mary Mother Of Sorrows doll is the one I'm most proud of right now. Which I think is because I consider religious art one of the highest art forms. You are making the divine into something tangible.
How has the reaction been to your work--are there particular types of dolls, or specific ones that people have reacted to the strongest?
The dolls of dead children seems to be very upsetting to people, which is the point. They should have to look death in the eye. The Female Circumcision piece is also very jarring for people which again is the point, and sometimes people are upset with the Menstrual Art I do with my own blood.
I get the feeling you get people occasionally misunderstanding and somehow thinking these can be used as children's toys. Is that true?
It's because people aren't familiar with dolls as art objects, they just associate them with being a child's plaything. As long as dolls have existed, there have been dolls for play and dolls for art, so I don't know why people don't get that.
Your work has been photographed in magazines and shown in galleries. How was it first discovered?
I started out doing more mainstream art doll events. I cut my teeth there, and I guess they got discovered by me traveling with them, and through the internet. I'm actually not sure, being as I was just a young girl from way down south, where it's hard to get anything out there. There isn't an art scene down here at all, so I guess traveling played a big part in it. Also, my father's side of the family has all owned their own businesses at one time or another. So being a good PR and business woman is in my blood.
You also work as an alternative model. How did you get into this, and is it mainly to promote your art, or an end in itself?
I got into it because people wanted to take pics of me, because I was the weird girl that made the weird dolls. Then I realized it was a great vehicle to get my work out there. Then it became a side art form in itself, and because of it I have gotten to work with a lot of artists I admire.
What future projects do you have on the horizon that people can look forward to?
I'm working on some monochromatic dolls, more female anatomy artwork and more jewelry.
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Find out more about Shyla's art at UglyArt.net, and her modeling at UglyShyla.com. Connect with her on: MySpace Facebook Twitter * Special thanks to Vault contributor and previous Visceral Visionary Nos for introducing me to Shyla's work!