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Natural Awakenings Tucson

A Path of Pure Inspiration

Aug 31, 2016 11:24PM ● By Dale Bruder

The life of a working artist takes many side roads. Some are distractions, others, new pathways through creations’ terrain. Flora Layla’s roads taken moved through building recording studios with Richard Alderson and Jose Feliciano to raising orchids and chrysanthemums in a third-world countryside. Sans Peace Corp help, Layla and crew built green houses, an irrigation dam, clean water system, a covered bridge and a road, and fought off armed bandits who wanted to take over, while always painting.

“Everyday, I go to the place where painting creates me,” explains Layla. The artist’s resilience shines through. “I’m surrounded by life’s treasures of colors vibrating, rich smells and sounds, energy emitting from all of life.”

Layla surrounds herself with visionaries doing breakthrough work. Mayan elders from Chiapas, Mexico showed her and Alderson how to build ancient musical instruments and assisted in recording Sacred Music of the Mayans that was accepted into the Smithsonian Library. “An artist is always working on their art—always operating on all cylinders,” Layla says.

Two artist residencies—the first in Chiapas, the second in Konyu, Turkey—both permeated with ancient cultures and provided places where painting created Flora Layla. She added to the cultural treasure with a mural at the Na Balom Museum, in Chiapas, and an exhibit at the Mevlana Mausoleum, in Konyu, honoring the mystic Sufi poet and founder of the Whirling Dervish order.

Layla established her studio in Tucson during the early 1980s, when the town was bursting with New West modernization and fighting Californication. In her mid-life years, the artist pursued a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Arizona, eventually graduating magna cum laude. She has sustained a gallery presence since 1983. A well-known artist in the community, Layla’s work can be found in broad venues from Hana’s Salon, in Palamino Plaza, to Solar Culture, on Toole.

Her abstract expressionist oil paintings vibrate with color and ethereal images. A single-color palette flows, respecting boundaries that send the eye ever into new dimensions. “Painting is like reading a good book, always with ourselves. To be with all. Evolving, penetrating to the depths and surrounding us in its subtle levels. Layer upon layer of infinite possibilities manifesting. Waves of deep concentration and focus behind each brush stroke.” She whispers as though a secret, “I get to know their relations from inside out.”

The large canvas “Man in the Mountain” draws one into a suspenseful story, unfolding in time and space. “This painting excites and stimulates me, expressing myself from inside out. Pure inspiration motivates me to be creative with my painting to the sound of Earth’s heartbeat,” says Layla. Hoof beats shake the earth as the story unfolds before the viewer’s eye.

Layla lives her credo, constantly exploring new mediums, returning to artistic forms she’s used before, seeking technique and innovation for her creative expression. Exploring lapidary techniques with the jeweler known as Coyote, returning to an earlier passion of sculpture this time with George Penaloza at the TMA pottery studio. “Being an artist is a transcendental reality, capturing a moment in time in line, form and colors, forming a reality with many subtle levels of discovery and life’s blissful rapture,” she says.

The weight of her achievements hangs lightly on Layla. Paintings, murals and audio recordings in museums’ permanent collections, numerous grants and awards, video art, films and broadcast productions, exhibitions, books of paintings and poems and, of course, her legacy in Chiapas.

“I’m thinking about returning to Chiapas—a fresh perspective, materials and techniques to explore,” the artist muses. Returning to the present and the practicality of the moment, “I’d like Mr. Etherton to see my work, put it in a gallery.” Always working, ever on all cylinders, she turns to the sketches on the table by her easel, moves into her self and the pure inspiration that guides her.

Flora Layla’s art is available for sale. Connect with her at 520-440-3536, [email protected] and

Dale Bruder is a freelance writer interested in creative people, social and cultural movements and applications of esoteric knowledge. Connect with him at 520-331-1956 or [email protected].