Q&A: Abstract artist Ayla Erdener talks LGBTQ+ community, cultural heritage, life as local artist

Saachi Subramaniam

UT alumna and Austinite Ayla Erdener is an illustrator, designer, abstract oil painter and muralist who works out of her art studio in East Austin. Erdener’s art echoes self-exploration and her life experiences thus far.

Erdener graduated in 2011 with a fine arts degree and now displays her artwork locally. She has participated in many Austin tours and events, including the EAST and WEST Austin Studio Tours and the HOPE Outdoor Gallery community project. She opened her most recent exhibit, “Queers of Austin,” at the Dougherty Arts Center, located between Butler Park and Barton Springs Road. The exhibit’s grand opening was on Oct. 12 and remained open until Nov. 9.

Each painting shown in Erdener’s “Queers of Austin” exhibit is named after a person that has had an influence on her journey in the queer community. She sat down with The Daily Texan to discuss how her paintings reflect this journey and the safety she finds in those that support and uplift her.

Daily Texan:  The safety you found within the queer community and your LGBTQ+ journey is reflected in the paintings in your exhibit. What elements of connection to the queer community give you that feeling of safety?

Ayla Erdener: This exhibit meant so much to be able to thank everyone for creating a safe space and showing me the way through my queer journey. My community allowed a world where you could be undeniably yourself, free of judgment as you move along in your journey to find yourself. It feels powerful to walk through the gallery and see all the faces of every person who made a difference, who inspired, laughed and talked me through my questions. It also feels good to fill the space with positivity, gratitude and beauty.

DT: In what ways did your Turkish heritage influence you earlier on in your life to be interested in pursuing art?

AE: I grew up in a creative family. Drawing came naturally to me, and I’ve drawn since I was little, from princesses to practicing drawing my hands. In the summers we would travel to Turkey. The patterns and colors in the kilims (tapestry-woven carpets) often came home with us — everyone in my family is obsessed with Turkish kilims. Soon, our house was filled with the same vibrant colors and shapes that I grew up with and found so mesmerizing and familiar. I’ve always used color liberally in my paintings and strive to create bold, bright colorful pieces to inspire and delight the viewer.

DT: What do you love most about being a professional artist?

AE: I work full time by day and create art at my studio at night. It frees me to create without the pressure of making a living. I have the mental headspace and freedom to experiment and pursue the ideas I’m most passionate about. I love spending time at night with a glass of nice whiskey and a good playlist, unwinding and processing my day. Art is my way of understanding the world and acts as my therapy. When I create art, I feel like my true self, and even though it is hard work and challenges you, I know it is my forever path and my happy place.