A Beautiful Kind of Ugly
Artist, model, crazy cat lady, satanist, humanitarian, and then some. While it may create a strange combination for a resume, they are the perfect ingredients for one of the most interesting humans you may ever encounter.
Writer:  Zebrana Mar 09 09

Artist, model, crazy cat lady, satanist, humanitarian, and then some. While it may create a strange combination for a resume, they are the perfect ingredients for one of the most interesting humans you may ever encounter. Loved by many, and scoffed at by a great deal of others, the woman I am about to introduce you to is among one of the rarest gems, and an impossible person to ignore.

I first encountered Ugly Shyla in 2004, while promoting a local Tacoma, WA band that I was doing performance art with. At the time, half of Americans still didn't have a clue about the addictive cesspool of MySpace, and it was easier to find people of like minds on there-especially in any facet containing strange forms of art. She sent me a lovely compliment she didn't feel I would be comfortable accepting due to the nature of my performance at the time, and from that moment on, a friendship has grown based on mutual respect and admiration.

Before everything else, Shyla is an artist. Compelled to create in such a way that it's the basis for her very existence, she thrives on a kind of passion that is almost a lost entity in today's society. Of all the questions you could ask about her art, "why?" is the least relevant as the creations she brings to life come naturally to her as breathing. Complete with DIY ethics, her forms of expression include paint, clothing, sculpture, performance art, modeling, clay, and whatever else happens to catch her interest, sometimes even from her own blood. The most interesting, and somewhat disturbing of all her art forms is her dolls. Derived mostly from her nightmares/dreams and the cruel nature of society, her dolls force people to see the depravity of life that most choose to ignore.

The most interesting, and somewhat disturbing of all her art forms is her dolls.

While many dolls of an alternative nature are mass produced, and thrown on the shelves to attract the tastes of anyone who thinks a shopping spree at Hot Topic will make them an individual, she's been single-handedly crafting each doll from her home In Lafayette into a one-of-a-kind oddity since she was 16. Due to the tedious nature of her work, some dolls can take up to 6 months to finish, and as with all quality art, they don't come cheap. On average, I've seen her dolls start from anywhere around $300-$500, and some go up to $1000 for custom work. You may think that's expensive, but when you take into consideration the fact that every detail from the facial expression to the stitching in the clothing is an intentional part of the creation, I honestly believe she should be charging more. Fortunately for those of us with a smaller budget, she creates jewelery, and other bodies of work that you can pick up from her website sitting around $15-$100, as well as offering strict lay-a-way plans for more expensive items.

In keeping with her DIY lifestyle, she does her own promotion, which eventually brought her into the world of alternative modeling. In her own words, she states "...people just started taking pic's of me I guess because they were familiar with me through my doll work and I assume they found my look and my line of work interesting. I actually don't have a clue on how to do it from the ground up. I never wanted to be a model or even entertained the notion of becoming one. I got into it because people just started taking my pic...most of them knew about my dolls, so they liked my art and wanted to take a pic of the weird person that makes the weird dolls. I then realized that was a really good *and free* way to get publicity for my dolls and art so that is why I kept doing it and still do it to this day." Obviously Shyla is doing something right, as she is now an established alternative model, having the opportunity to work with photographers such as Steve Diet Goedde (), Lithium Picnic (), and John Santerineross, without shedding even a single article of clothing. The thing I find most interesting about Shyla is that although she is a self-proclaimed Satanist (a belief more familiarized with that of a selfish nature), she has one of the most giving dispositions of anyone I've ever known. She credits this to none other than good ol' Southern hospitality and manners, which she is a stickler about. Her philosophy on life seems to be that it's important to treat others with kindness and respect, but it doesn't mean you have to be a doormat or that you can't stand your ground. Her humanitarianism is genuine, which although her art may seem creepy or disturbing to most, I believe that aspect of her shines through and is reflected in the images she creates. Her art challenges you to take a deeper look into the neglected sides of human nature, no matter the cost. There is much I could say about Ugly Shyla, but some things are best when taken directly from the source...

Z: Since tapping into your creative side, in what ways do you feel it's helped you to grow as a person over the years?

US: Well it's helped me to survive life so to speak. But in some ways I'm not sure how it's helped me since I have been making dolls since I was 16, so I guess I really don't know what the difference is.

Z: You are quite the juxtaposition in many aspects of your life, my favorite being that you are both a satanist, and a religious fanatic. Could you elaborate a bit on how this came to be? What are the similarities, if any, that bring these together, and how do you feel it affects your artwork?

US: Satanism is more of a philosophy I follow. I don't consider it my actual religion. My actual religion is voodoo and most of the people I know that do practice voodoo are a touch religious fanatics. It's kind of like Pentecostals, I never never met a lukewarm one. I have always been a bit of a religious fanatic even when I was a kid before I started practicing voodoo. As a kid I converted to Catholicism and really wanted to be a nun. I'm also a Sagittarius and that also tends to make one a bit of a religious fanatic. As for the question about how Satanism and Voodooism go together, there are Gods in Voodoo and Santeria like Elegua and Exu that tend to balance things out cosmically and are similar to the concept of what a Satanist would consider Satan.

Z: What do you feel is the most important quality to have as an artist?

US: Creativity and originality, which most think is a given but A LOT of artists lack both.

Creativity and originality, which most think is a given but A LOT of artists lack both.

Z: Since becoming a model, do you feel it's helped you to express yourself in ways that you weren't able to do through your physical art?

US: Modeling is a lot like doll making in some aspects.You get to create something through paint and clothing. But modeling has allowed me to work with some of my favorite artists that I wouldn't have been able to work with physical art being as a lot of them just work in photography and not in something I normally work with like sculpture.

Z: I know because of your religious beliefs and lifestyle, you've been snubbed by the fine art doll community. Since this hasn't stopped you at all from going after your goals, is there anyone or a group of people in that community that's started to lighten up over the years and changed there opinions about you due to your determination?

US: I think I still make their skin crawl. LOL. I have to say that in all fairness, it wasn't the other traditional fine art doll makers that had any prob with me. It's the almost authority figures of that community that had a problem with me, like the guilds and magazines. I really had to make a name for myself as a doll artist with virtually no support from the fine art doll community, which I still don't know how I managed to get established. I guess doll making and art are my vocation and I couldn't get away from it. None of them have really "lightened" up. They are a little more accepting of things like kitschy/spooky/gothy bullshit, provided it's just that kitschy/spooky/gothy bullshit. Yet if you are a fine art doll artist and tend to delve into really serious or dark subject matter they will shy away from you. I'm not the only artist that has had problems with their refusal to support artists who do more serious subject matter. Again that makes it difficult for the artist, some of whom are really talented and have something to say. Imagine a painter trying to get established without any support from the gallery or fine art community.

I think I make most of them even more uncomfortable because I'm established enough that I can do what I want, and I managed to get as well established as the traditional doll artist that had the whole art doll community kissing their ass.

Z: I guess I should ask something about your tattoos and piercings since this is Deviant Nation after all...what are the most extreme body modifications you've had done, and why?

US: I don't have anything I'd consider extreme, at least not now in this day and age. I have things like a Madison and have done flesh pulls with the front of my neck but I don't really consider any of that all that exciting.

Z: Why does prison tattoo art attract you more so than any other forms of tattoo art?

US: I blame the south. LOL. I think it has a lot to do with the fact when I was a kid tattooing wasn't mainstream as it is now. The majority of tattoos I'd see growing up were on hardcore bad asses like guys and women that got tattoos in jail or in biker tattoo shops. Incidentally my first tattoo was when I was 14, and I got it in a biker tattoo shop because again, you didn't have tattoo shops were people had degrees in art. You had scary biker tattoo parlors where scary bikers tattooed you. LOL. I think I still like white trash or jail house looking tattoos because now that tattoos are so mainstream, when you see somebody with a jail house or even an old man with a tattoo you KNOW they got it because they actually liked the image and because it was an actual from of rebellion.

The majority of tattoos I'd see growing up were on hardcore bad asses like guys and women that got tattoos in jail or in biker tattoo shops.

Z: You've often expressed your concerns on your blog about growing up to be insane, what do you feel keeps you grounded, from tipping over that edge?

US: I don't think I ever really feel grounded, it's just that most of the time I ignore the fact I'm totally insane. HAHA.

Z: What roll has your mother played in your life concerning your art?

US: If it weren't for her I never would have gotten into art, much less actually let someone see it. The first doll I ever made was a doll for my mother for her birthday, after that I just kind of kept making them. She always collected odd and Halloween toys, and I figured one day I'd see if I could make a doll for her. She thought I had talent and started trying to encourage me to keep at it, and also show my artwork. In the beginning I was adamantly against ever letting anyone see my artwork. In fact I used to cry if I found out she even let someone see my artwork. LOL. It's all her fault I'm the annoyance I am today. HAHA

Z: One thing I haven't touched on yet is your love for animals, I honestly don't know how you have time for anything extra with such a busy lifestyle, but from what I've read, it seems like your home is a zoo for wayward pets, would you care to elaborate?

US: I tend to end up with strays especially special needs pets. I guess I relate to them since I'm also a reject. LOL. Plus I'm working on not only being insane, but also becoming a crazy cat lady. I'm going to be one of those awesome blue haired old cat ladies. My latest is a tailless cat which my friend fostered after somebody found him in a dumpster. I adopted him *Mr Manxy* after my 3 legged cat Scooter passed away. The day Scooter passed away, I called my friend Gary and asked if he happened to have any special needs cats, or cats "missing parts" since I already had experience caring for them. Just so happened Gary did have some which is how I ended up with the tailless wonder.

Z: So when your not painting/designing/performing/modeling/crafting/promoting/etc., what do you do? Is there a such thing as relaxation? If there was, what do you think it would be?

I almost feel like a horse that falls asleep standing up because half the time I just drop to sleep with some project in my hand while in bed.

US: Relaxation is kind of a foreign feeling to me. I think I have to have some really sever case of ADHD or something. Maybe it has something to do with the fact in some aspects, I'm a competitive person, not really against other people but against myself. It's so bad that I even will read, draw, or work on small projects in bed at night before I fall asleep because falling asleep time is time I can use to work on something. I'll wake up at times with paper with doodles on the night stand or notes that I don't even remember doing before falling asleep. I almost feel like a horse that falls asleep standing up because half [the time] I just drop to sleep with some project in my hand while in bed. Awhile back I almost sliced off the tip of my left ring finger because I attempted to carve a piece of wood in bed while falling asleep. Really there has to be something mentally wrong with me, who the hell carves wood in bed? There was blood EVERYWHERE, there are still spots of blood I discover in my bathroom after that incident. Now I have limited myself to late night projects that don't involve sharp things. LOL

Z: I guess that's really all I have, is there any words of wisdom you'd like to add for any aspiring models, artists, or maybe there's something I haven't covered that you feel is important?

US: Again, be original and if you are an artist or a model, actually use your work and voice to express YOURSELF! Plus work hard and don't ever carve wood in bed. LOL If you'd like to find out more about Ugly Shyla, she updates her blog entitled, "A detailed description of my moral & mental decay." on her MySpace on a near daily basis, where you can keep track of her latest rants and info (www.myspace.com/uglyshyla). She also has artwork available for sale on her website, www.uglyart.net. Other links include www.uglyshyla.com (which focuses more on her modeling), and www.myspace.com/uglyartdolls to keep track of her latest creations. It's easy for all of us to pass over what's perceived as the defecations of society without a second glimpse or even an acknowledgment, but it takes a stronger stomach, and a deeper set of morals to reach out and give it new life. In my personal opinion, if more people sought to do the same and exposed the uglier sides of nature, we would live in a kinder world, with a more fulfilling life.

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