with Kaila Rose Parrish by Kendall Jacob.

Kaila uses craft as a vehicle for crossing boundaries. The orchestration and documentation of her actions catapults the emotional and unseen into the landscape of the external. Her work primarily exists as paintings, but she has created albums of music, performances, textiles, drawings, zines, window installations, films, poems, and gardens, all in the spirit of material exploration. She studied classical guitar and music composition as a youngster, and then studied fine art at the San Francisco Art Institute in California. Her roots are in Texas, and she currently lives and tends to her work in Dallas.

Sunset, 2017. Acrylic paint, glass, cellophane, and oil pastel on stretched canvas. 35.5"x45"

Before beginning our interview, Kaila and I took three deep breaths together.

Oseeous Matter: This sets a really good tone for the start of this interview. One of the last times we spoke, we talked briefly about the body's relationship to your work, both in scale and in orientation… Have you thought more about the presence of your body and its gestures?

Kaila Rose Parrish: Yeah, I just like to work large-scale, the same scale as me, or a human body! I also don't have an easel, I just hang the painting on the wall. Whenever I'm looking at a canvas that's in front of me, it can kind of feel like a mirror. I like that feeling - it’s maybe more conducive to painting more honestly? A lot of the marks I make are coming from inside of me - if that makes sense.

O: Yeah, I personally see the intricate repetition and collage work in your paintings also connected to your body. It seems like it requires a lot of time spent in relation to the surface you’re working with. I can’t help but imagine you painting those as I look at it.

K: oh that's so cool - you can kind of see the time spent almost….

O: Yeah, it feels a bit meditative - which makes me think of our breathing exercises at the beginning.

K: Yeah, I think painting has been a form of meditation for me. I never thought of painting as meditation before, but I think it really is. It's a commitment to being here - showing up - and letting whatever comes up, come up, and not judging it. I am always honest in letting whatever is going on with me come into the canvas…. Even if I might hide it later, or cover it with another layer of something else.

page from a sketchbook, 2016

O: I’m remembering our freshman year of college at SFAI, where you were constantly in your sketchbook or notebook at the time. Does your sketchbook ever become a part of your painting practice? Or is your sketchbook more of an everyday engagement with the world, your moods, etc.

K: At the time my sketchbook was more of a way for me to work out ideas, projects, or papers for school, but now my sketchbook is for something different. A lot of times in my sketchbook now I draw still lives or portraits of people or cartoons. Or I just write out persistent thoughts or affirmations, and I write many, many lists. These things don’t translate or travel too much into my paintings. I think maybe that's because the format of a painting doesn't feel like a storytelling format to me. Working in a journal does. It's a book and I'm using language…

O: feels like it has an implied narrative?

K: Yeah! My paintings feel more like they come from a nonverbal place, where I'm trying to express things I can't or could not express in a linear way… they don't really have a narrative. My paintings are me trying to relate to parts of myself and my relationships that I can’t speak with words. It’s more subtle than language and it feels more holistic, or complex… maybe I'm talking about many things at once, and maybe there's not a certain message i'm trying to convey - but a feeling or a response, and a movement and its documentation is needed to get through. Journaling helps me get through too, and I think both are important practices for me as a person.

O: Going back to the question about the body and gestural relationship to your canvas - it's kind of like your body is expressed there, whereas your mind kind of occupies your sketchbook….

K: that's interesting!

O: not saying I believe that the mind and body are not connected...

K: When I journal I think it all comes from my mind - and my mind worries a lot and ties knots and tries to untie knots… so whenever I journal I'm writing a lot about worries or problem-solving. A journal just feels like a secret, closeable, safe place to spit out and look at the stuff that my brain is making that may or may not be true…

Spring, 2019. Acrylic paint, oil pastel, and tempera paint on stretched canvas. 60"x60"

O: I want to also talk about some of your newer works. Your painting Spring reminds me of some of the waterlilies--

K: Monet! I painted that, actually, after I saw a big Monet show in Fort Worth. I went with a friend and I was so inspired. It was a retrospective of all the paintings he made from his garden at Giverny later in his life, and it was just the most inspiring thing to me. A lot of them were unfinished, and they were so loose and free and spacious and full of his love for the land. I think that spirit really came out of me in that painting.

O: I love it so much! This one and Balance feel a lot different than some of your previous work, which feels a lot more airy to me-- they’re super colorful, with oranges and pinks, and softer palettes...they feel a little “fluffy” to me.

K&O:  (laughter)

O: I don't know if that's the greatest word to describe art… but Balance and Spring in contrast feel very worldly. There are identifiable things in them too... like flowers, the moon, and leaves. Have you felt a shift in some of the ways you are approaching your newer work?

Balance, 2019. Acrylic paint, tempera paint, and oil pastel on stretched canvas. 35.5"x52"

K: That's a very good observation - I agree that my older work was much more fluffy. And I think as a person I can be pretty airy. I listened to this interesting podcast today. It talked about how everyone who’s very sensitive goes through a time in their life where they realize that grounding is very necessary for them to be here. That really clicks for me. I think my newer work is definitely more earthy and worldly… like I’m trying to get grounded. It has a lot more texture and darkness to it. It's just a bit heavier - but that's what's coming out - and it’ll change. Maybe i’ll move onto another element….(laughter)….Water!

O: There's always a sense of balance in your work. Now I feel like what was happening a lot with the shapes in your paintings before, might now be happening more with the contrast between dark and light.

Landscape, 2018. Acrylic paint, vellum paper, marker ink, oil pastel, and graphite on stretched canvas. 35.5"x45"

K: That's so interesting. Thank you for pointing that out to me! I guess the tension or balance and the place between opposites is always somewhere I’ve been drawn to. Opposites help each other stand out and be known. In permaculture design, which is something I’ve been doing a lot of research about lately, edges are the most fertile zones for plant growth and species diversity, which is so cool to me! Edges feel like this location between opposites to me. And darkness feels grounded, heavy and mystical. I don't know, maybe the darker colors make me feel like I can express the variety of emotion and brightness? I can expand and reach out and dance but I can also be centered and be still.

Tapestry I, 2017. Acrylic paint, spray paint, paper clay, medium, watercolor ink, and graphite on stretched canvas. 35.5"x45"

O: What has been inspiring to you lately? It doesn't have to be artists -- can be writing or things you're doing, experiencing, thinking about?

I’ve been walking to this park by my house everyday at 5pm to read - that's been really inspiring. It's a big open field and I just lay there in my favorite time of day when the sun is kind of getting lower.  Sometimes I don’t even read, though, I just look at the sky or the tree branches or the grass on the ground. I’ve been feeling this deep love for, and connection to the Earth lately too. Well, really, all my life, but something about it has gotten stronger or more urgent recently and it feels really energizing and inspiring.  I’ve been doing research on permaculture and biomimicry, and I am so curious about how I can apply their principles to different parts of my life. I’ve been looking at Monir Shahroudi Farmanfarmaian’s work and really liking it lately! It's been very exciting to listen to all kinds of podcasts lately, too. A couple I really like are For The Wild, On Being (which you introduced me to!), and Medicine Stories. I think it'd be cool to have a podcast…. All the plants and bugs in my garden inspire me endlessly as well.I've been really having fun cooking - following recipes, and not following recipes.