Kayla Witt Interview

Kayla Witt

Kayla Witt discusses working towards upcoming solo exhibitions, paintings that deal with themes of spirituality, healing, pain, and the marketing of wellness, & maintaining a holistic practice.

How did you get into making art?

Growing up as an only child, I used to pass the time with drawing. My mom would joke that she’d come back hours later and I would still be in the same spot where she left me at my art table. While we didn’t go to galleries or museums, I do come from a family who values the arts. Both of my great-grandfather’s were oil painters, one was also a glass blower and cutter of Czech bohemian crystal, my grandma plays the violin, my mom draws and plays the piano, and my step-dad is interested in photography, plays guitar, and fabricates cars from scratch. My mom and step-dad were always very encouraging with me pursuing the arts, whether it was ballet, music or fine art.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on paintings for a solo exhibition in LA in 2025, as well as a four-person group exhibition in Seoul, South Korea in 2025.

I am working on paintings that deal with themes of spirituality, healing, pain, and the marketing of wellness. There’s an overarching sense of searching, longing, and uncertainty. I’ve been approaching these topics through paintings of landscapes, interiors, windows, doors, and shelves. I think a lot about space and place, so I like to work holistically from multiple views or avenues like this. In my interior spaces, which are at once both commercial and domestic, inanimate objects are energetically charged with surreal and enigmatic properties. These carefully chosen objects, such as self-help paraphernalia and home decor, are meant to challenge one in the quest to find purpose, spiritual and physical well-being, and self- actualization. I consider my paintings to be a ‘slow-burn.’ The longer one spends with them, the more details emerge over time. My choices are subtle but I aim to make paintings with movement, theatricality, and narrative.

I am working on paintings that deal with themes of spirituality, healing, pain, and the marketing of wellness.

Kayla Witt

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

There were a bunch of events in my life that happened simultaneously, which marked a shift in my work. I moved to America, to California specifically (the heart of America’s wellness culture), my husband and I were experiencing a lot of loss, and I began to have some health issues that sparked my own health journey. I went down the rabbit hole of frantically researching and becoming a consumer of anything that could potentially help me- self-care rituals, changing my diet, etc. That said, looking back I think I was always primed to make work on the topics that I am exploring now, given that discussions and experiences surrounding illness and wellness have been at the forefront of my upbringing. My mom is a therapist, and my step-dad (now just my dad) is a forensic psychiatrist – you can imagine the dinner conversations. But the work is largely inspired by my grandma in the Czech Republic, who raised me to know that there’s an herb for any ailment and when the sky is pink that means it’s going to be windy the next day. Ultimately, from these experiences I’ve come to appreciate that believing this life has the answers for you is the most optimistic thing in the world.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I tend to work in series, all the paintings bounce off of each other. Sometimes the links are obvious, often subtle, but they are always there. I do have some ideas for sculpture and video that I’d like to make in future (if I ever finish my paintings with extra time, which has yet to happen), but those ideas always stem from the paintings. The paintings come first for me.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

My studio is in Venice, CA, about 15 minutes from where I live, which is a pretty amazing commute for LA. I’ve slowly and reluctantly gotten used to waking up early with my husband, who wakes up at 6am for work. I normally get to the studio between 8-9am (somehow it takes me 2-3 hours to drink a coffee, look at emails and stare into space). Once I get to the studio I spend about an hour or two prepping and mixing all of the oil colors for whatever part of the painting I’m working on that day. And then I paint for about 8-12 hours, depending on if I’m on a deadline for a show. I seem to work better under pressure, which is often self-imposed. I normally wait to eat until I’m absolutely starving, because I don’t want to put the brush down, so taking breaks for eating or stretching is something I want to be better about. And I also often push until I’m so tired that I need to get in the car immediately while I still can (hence why it’s important to me that my studio is close to home), so I’m not the best with washing my brushes thoroughly or cleaning up at the end of the night either. I’m realizing that what I’m describing does not sound like fun hahah, as if I only make paintings under duress. But I love it and I’m always chasing that meditative flow state. While I paint I listen to art, comedy or health podcasts, and if I really need to zone out then I’ll put on a TV show in the background. But it has to be a TV show I’ve already seen, and nothing too distracting or complicated that requires actual watching or active listening so it’s exclusively reruns of my faves (like Buffy, Twin Peaks, X-Files) or absolute trash reality television, no in-between.

Who are your favorite artists?

There are so many, and I think this changes for me all the time. My earliest favorites are David Hockney, Hilma af Klint, Pipilotti Rist, and Niki de Saint Phalle. Some contemporary favorites are Theodora Allen, Anna Koak, Zsofia Keresztes, Shana Moulton, Vincent Pocsik, Matt Johnson, Jake Longstreth, and I could go on.

I also love outsider artists, or folk artists, who make public-art sculptures or roadside attractions, but they often go unnamed. Like there’s a giant red shoe off the freeway on the way to Santa Barbara that I’ve been meaning to hike to, but I just can’t seem to figure out where to park my car and how to get to it. I like the idea of going out and searching for artwork, as searching is a big theme in my own work.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I mostly go to Instagram. I do also subscribe to a ton of galleries’ e-newsletters, read their press releases and look up the artists. And I listen to art podcasts as well, like The Conversation Art Podcast, Art Smack, etc.

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