By Aja Terwilliger
Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your piece.
Aja Terwilliger: The piece "Lost Angels" is about the grit and the culture in Los Angeles. As most of us know, "Los Angeles" translates to "City of Angels," which gives the city sort of a mysterious elegant name. Before I moved to LA, I thought of palm trees, surfing, skating, pretty people, and fame. But if you live in LA, you know that there is way more to it that "the outside world" doesn't get a glimpse of. LA is full of the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. It wasn't until I moved to LA and happened to drive through Skid Row and more "underground" parts of the city that I saw the disparity first hand and witnessed the "Lost Angels," if you will. People with no homes, people roaming the streets full of trash and tents. The city is full of people without homes and equally full of people with some of the most expensive homes in the world. So, I guess the piece is really about that fine line where gold meets grit. Where rich meets poor. Where the glittering sun sets on the city of lost angels.
AM: What inspires you most?
AT: I'm really inspired by other people. I sort of find other artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and artists that are local in LA, and I get inspiration for my own pieces. I get inspired by people who ask me to paint for them and who purchase my work. I am lucky to have friends who are creative and artistic. We go back and forth with ideas, and I get my own artistic freedom to do work for them. I have certain muses who make me think and who inspire me.
AM: How did you decide skateboard decks would be your canvas?
AT: I had friends who would collect skateboard decks and hang them on their walls as art, and I always thought it was super edgy and artistic. One day after I had just moved to LA and hadn't found a job yet, my roommate at the time said, "You should just do that, just paint on old skateboard decks and hang them on our walls." We had just moved into our apartment and didn't have art on the walls, so I just started going to the Burton store and asking for blank decks. We ended up with walls full of painted decks and people would come over and ask me to paint stuff for them. And so it began.
AM: What roles does LA play in your work?
AT: The skate culture began in LA with the Z Boys and Dogtown. So, it's fun for me to think about the history of a deck when I buy used skateboard decks to paint on. It has way more soul and more history than just buying a blank canvas. I don't skate, but I absolutely love snowboarding, and my snowboard sort of tells its own story. What it's been through, where I've taken it, the falls and the journeys it's taken. I think of the same thing with a skateboard and how many people dedicate their life to that little piece of wood, and I put that into my painting.
AM: What themes and styles do you pursue in your work?
AT: I love dripping paint, and I love throwing paint. You can't plan it and you can't predict where the paint is going to end up; I love that. I'll paint an image of something that I've spent hours and days painting and then literally throw paint on it. I think it just gives it an edge and a fun sort of "fuck it" vibe. It's how I am in my personal life; I can be controlling and pay a lot of attention to detail and take a lot of time on something, and at the end sometimes, I sort of just think, "How can I make this interesting?" Or "How can I ruin this?". It can be a little counter-productive, but I think that's how my artwork is. I'd say my style is urban and pop-art combined–like Tu Pac meets Andy Warhol.
AM: What else can we expect to see from you?
AT: I'm working on a never-ending series of portraits of a good friend of mine. She gives me ideas and images of herself and then says, "Do whatever you want". She's like this beautiful disaster, so it translates well with my style of painting. I'm also working on having a gallery show and hoping to do a few collaborations with other artists. I want to start doing bigger-scale pieces and working on large canvas, so stay tuned. I'll literally be doing big things!
Aja Terwilliger is an LA-based artist from the suburbs of Atlanta. She has always considered herself a free spirit and loved to paint because it gave her a sense of freedom. She was involved in The Venice Surf and Skate Silent Art Auction and designed boards for fashion designer, Mister Triple X. You can find more of her work at deckkthewalls.com.