Kayla Shaggy: Durango artist with a dark aesthetic

by Patty Templeton

Kayla Shaggy drew a gianormo, Bosch-inspired, intensely-detailed picture of Hell that took grand prize in the 41st Annual Juried Exhibit at the Durango Arts Center in June. It’s a meticulous depiction of devils, devastation, and distress that DGO quite admires. We have a thing for centipedes that have human hands for legs – no idea how Shaggy knew that.

You can see Shaggy’s award-winning “Hell” drawing and the rest of the Durango Art Center’s Juried Exhibit until Saturday, July 29.

DGO sat down with Shaggy to discuss her art and fabulously creepy obsessions.

Tell us about your aesthetic.I really like dark stuff.

I’ve always really liked how the origins of fairy tales were dark. Like the Brothers Grimm or the violence of folktales and stories from all over the world.

I think there’s this one story I heard where this girl is trying to save her brothers and she had to unlock a door and her pinky was the key. So her pinky was torn off. Stuff like that. I like creepy stuff.

How do you describe your work to people?I guess sometimes I tell people it can be scary. It doesn’t come off as scary to me, but sometimes I feel like I have to put in a warning beforehand to people.

Also, there’s lots of mark-making and I mostly focus on black and white … Line work’s the most consistent element to my work.

How do you want people to view your art? Growing up, I always had fun going to art galleries and looking at artwork. Before I looked at the title, I would look at the piece to try and figure out what it was about.

I think when most people go into galleries, they feel like they need to know things prior, before going in. They think, “I don’t know what this is about!” People who aren’t familiar with art history or iconography, it can be intimidating.

I want all sorts of people to look at my art – kids, older people, people my age – and I don’t want to strictly tell someone what my art is about. I want them to be able to look at a piece and be encouraged to interpret their own story through it.

What artist storytellers do you adore? I really like Picasso and Hieronymus Bosch.

Bosch is a big inspiration for the “Hell” piece. He was doing so much weird stuff and people were like, “What are you doing?” They still ask that about Bosch. There’s so many tiny details in his work and I always have fun looking it.

I really like a lot of Renaissance artists and artists that use religious themes. There’s a lot of comic book artists I fall into.

Like who?There’s one in Japan, Kentaro Miura. He draws (the manga) “Berserk.”

There’s also this genre called Ero guro. It’s erotic nonsense. I like creepy, out-there stuff.

Is it macabre erotica? Sometimes it’s sexual or sometimes it can be really depraved. It can vary. There’s this artist called Shintaro Kago who is super famous right now. He makes artwork for a lot of bands. A lot of his stuff combines something that is beautiful or cute with something that is really gross and ugly – that juxtaposition.

I think you can kinda see that influence in the “Hell” drawing. I’ve had some people say some of the monsters are cute, or how the little people are adorable until you realize that they are being torn apart.

Do you like to work in large scale? The “Hell” artwork took 35 hours. I did it over a series of three weeks. I love doing tiny details, and doing a huge artwork was challenging … I want to do another big drawing, maybe even bigger.

Does music factor into your work?Yeah. I like listening to music while I work.

To get into the mood for the “Hell” drawing, I was listening to all my favorite heavy metal bands.

Like who?There was Metallica. I like Cannibal Corpse, Chiodos, Coheed and Cambria, Slayer.

What other geek-out influences do you have?I like bugs. I think they’re really cute, but lots of people are really terrified of them. So it ends up in a drawing somehow. Like in the “Hell” drawing, there’s a giant centipede that people did not like.

I really love horror movies. There haven’t been many recently that I really liked. “The Witch” was good. Anything that is horror or spooky or scary, I always want to hear more about.

What horror movies would you recommend?The Thing” (1982 edition). The practical effects are so gross and amazing and everything goes to shit so quick in that movie and it’s just really great to see.

And, there’s this old zombie movie where this guy is being eaten and all the zombies are pulling on him. One zombie’s grabbing the guy’s head and he’s screaming and you could see his vocal cords tearing as his voice got more high pitched until (makes squish noise). It was “Day of the Dead.”

I love monsters. Monster movies excite me.

I like researching why people are scared of what they’re scared of, then using that in my work.

For more on Kayla Shaggy’s work, visit her website, https://www.kaylashaggy.gallery.This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer


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