Antonymia

Written by Joe Hillman

    Laila Weeks’s works are portraits of the faceless. Floating in a space with no horizon or context, the viewer is drawn to the subjects like planetary bodies. These figures interact with an intensity and quietude that makes the viewer feel as if they are witnessing something--a birth, a death, or something more. 

    Rooted deep in these images is the bond that ties antonyms together, showing the beautiful and familiar entangled with the ugly and alien; the cure fastened intractably to the disease. By combining them in ways that seem both instant and eternal, commensal and parasitic, these paintings compel the viewer to contemplate the duality and self-reflexivity of all existence, from the tiniest microbial dance in the primordial soup, to the most percussive collision of stars in a galaxy whose light has not yet touched us. In their anonymity and placement, they can be seen as macroscopic or microscopic, and above all introspective, displaying our own most confusing and powerful emotions. 

    A witness and an observer are not differentiated by who they are, or what they see; rather it is the connection between the two that creates the distinction. We merely observe life, but we witness the life-changing, be it a new child growing in the womb, or a home consumed by flames.  From the innate dichotomies of these paintings, you may take with you solace that if the wonderful moments of your life were not constantly entangled with the terrible, if your hope was not shadowed by despair and your love unaffected by apathy, you would be denying that which is in front of and within you: the tangled, oscillating, and sublime nature of our world. 

    By confronting this antonymia, this inextricable relationship of opposing ideas, one can stand witness and testify to their own experience. One can begin to identify as a living thing, who belongs here, but will not forever. By pairing imagination and memory, these paintings evoke the conflict and care that is not only essential to, but indicative of what we all collectively witness every day.