We had the good fortune of connecting with Leire Aguilera Kelly and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leire, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
“There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.” ― Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking.
I could not have said it better! Amanda, you are a genius. I know this because my career has not followed one straight path, in fact, it has wandered trhough many rocky, uneven, zig-zaging paths. That used to make me really anxious, but as I look back am I so thankful, and I would actually encourage it. As an artist, I believe it is crucial to bathe yourself in as many experiences as you can. Learn a language, a new culture, research different areas of art, of life. Be hungry for adventures, and by “adventure” I don’t mean grab a car and friends and road trip around the world (actually, do that too), but walking to get a coffee could be an adventure, riding a bus for the first time, talking to a stranger (always being safe of course), take a cooking class, a bachata class, read a book, eat some crickets (for the vegans, eat some plant “crickets”)! Be brave. All of that will feed you as an artist and enhance your creativity, or maybe it won’t! But it will make you grow as a human being and that is precious.
An important lesson I have learned, and I’m still digesting it, is that you won’t be creative ALL the time and that is part of the process. TRUST THAT.
Also, don’t be afraid to ASK for help. Nowadays there are so many resources within the reach of our hands. We need to use them. It could be a teacher, a (free) class online, your parents, a fellow artist, or just a fellow human. We need to take advantage of this. If we need it, go ask. Pride and ego won’t take you anywhere.
Finally, make (shitty) art every day!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a multidisciplinary artist. I am a filmmaker, a theatre director and writer, a photographer, and some day (hopefully not too far in the future) a musician. I am also an athlete (and soon a personal trainer), a ver good banana bread baker, a spiritual being, a podcaster and I cry every time someone starts singing in Glee. My art comes from all of that and more. It comes from emotion, from people around me, from the restlessness of moving my body and the intensity with which I exercise, the brightness of a full moon or the darkness of a new moon. My art comes from my experiences, from current, past or longing feelings. I am proud to say that my art also comes from my experiences as a woman, from my femininity, from my latin culture and my chaotic, but colourful and delightful country. I like to think that my art evokes emotion and moves my audience, because all in all, that is my goal.
I am still emerging as an artist. I am still learning and will never stop. It hasn’t been easy at all. But if it was, what would the fun in that be? Where would art emerge from? It has to be a balance. Plus, I am a firm believer that mistakes are the best teachers (and my mom because she told me that).
How do I overcome challenges? Honestly, lots of therapy, excessive exercise, people who support me, self-help books, non self-help books, movies, tv shows, my dog, my family, food, music, I’ll take anything! The secret is knowing that challenges are always there, but it always comes down to a choice: are you going to stay on the ground or get up and face a new challenge? Up to you. If you need a pity party for a bit, go for it, sometimes it helps, but don’t stay in it for too long.
I want the world to know that I always aim for my work to be honest and real. If it isn’t, I’m probably distracted comparing myself to others in social media or trying to meet impossible and unrealistic standards, so please tell me so I can break out of it and come back to the real world.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If it were an ideal situation and my best friend goes along with everything I propose (she usually does)… The day would start with some exercise. If my friend is feeling crazy, like I usually do, I would try to convince her to visit Santa Monica Crossfit. I would probably would have to carry her around the rest of the day, so I rather take her on a walk down Playa del Rey beach really early in the morning and do some stretching, maybe some weird dance moves. I would take my camera with me (if I don’t forget it…) and grab some moments as the sun rises. I love the contrast between the quiet when there is no one at the beach, the tranquility of the waves and breeze, and the planes flying out of LAX. It poses a grand scheme of possibilities; flying out to a new adventure, or staying right where you are and enjoying it.
After the beach my stomach would definitely be growling, so I would head up to Urth Caffe Santa Monica for some breakfast, tea and, of course, some sweet bread. You cannot ignore the hypnotizing smell coming out of those ovens. We would then head out to my favourite music store in the whole world: Amoeba Records. Lose ourselves in the world of music, film and books, and then sneak out to the pizza place next door to buy a giant cookie for later (or a bit for right there and then, and the rest for later).
I have some favourite spots in the city, however, what I like the most is exploring. I love walking out and about and finding new, and exciting places. Anything with books, music, art in general, or random objects and toys, catches my eye every time. Later in the day I would take my friend to my favourite photography gallery in the city; Rose Gallery, which is also home to the photographs of two of my favourite Mexican photographers at the moment Graciela Iturbide and Tania Franco Klein. There are also other galleries to explore there, which is great and so convinient!
To not fill our day with tons of driving up and down LA (especially in traffic), I would add just one more stop. Ice cream at Kippy’s Ice Cream (Venice Beach). This would have to be in a perfect world, because sadly, it closed permanently during the pandemic…
Los Angeles is a huge city with so much to explore! I find myself amazed every time I delve into the small corners of this gigantic city. If anyone wants my advice, just talk to people. Meet some other humans, be open to new experiences, foods, stories and please, please let yourself be amazed! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This is so hard since my life is full of mentors! I’ll keep it local and choose 3. (Ha!)
Dana Resnick – She is a superwoman. She’s a part time teacher, full-time director and mom (and I’m sure many other things). She has pushed me outside my comfort zone quite a few times: to write, to direct, to put myself out there and push the fear and insecurities to the side. She always trusted me and helped not only to find my voice, but to use it, and be loud. I admire her dedication and passion for her work. She’s ingenious, smart, loving, open-minded, and even though I graduated already I still learn from her all the time.
Beth Henley – Here’s a little story: I was writing a very bizarre play for Beth’s class at University, and after showing it to a friend I wanted to change everything. I went to Beth for guidance and she immediately recognized someone else’s voice in all of the changes I wanted to make. So she stopped me, questioned me about the motive for these changes and said: “You have to trust your instincts”. It may sound obvious, but in that moment a door opened for me and helped me listen to myself more. Beth is incredible and she has always encouraged me to make my art even though I call it “bizarre” or “weird”, she always finds it fascinating.
Alan Corvaia – How to describe Alan? He is creativity with legs. He is one of the best (if not the best) actors/theatre directors I know. He is incredibly talented, caring, intelligent and devoted. He pours himself into every project. Alan is always looking to create communities for artists so that we can all lift each other up and have a group and a platform to share our art. It is refreshing to see that many selfless acts in an artist.
I am forever grateful to know these wonderful beings with such big hearts. They are all my mentors and role models, and I look up to all of them. They inspire me as a person and as an artist and the little I wrote falls short to describe them. (Yes, I am very corny and emotional, and I am sure that makes me a better artist)
Liam Aguilera Kelly, Leire Aguilera Kelly