The East Oakland painter on Leo Sayer, the importance of flossing, and the power of art to challenge the world.
Though his work maintains bold statement, considerate precision, and circumscribed technique, Eddie Colla actually draws outside the lines. A conversation with him reveals a deeply thoughtful and clever person who operates within boundaries of his own. When I asked him why he became an artist, he told me he doesn’t think people become artists. In his estimation, all children are creative. They make things. They make up stories, creatures, imaginary places. “We arrive in the world as artists,” he said. “Then, some of us stop.”
The why that happens is a more interesting question to Colla.
Colla studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York and graduated from California College of the Arts with a BFA in Photography and Interdisciplinary Fine Arts in 1991. He displays an ironic sense of humor, but don’t be fooled, his work is quite deliberate, thought provoking and prescient. What three words would Colla use to describe his own work?
Seriously, though, Colla says much of his work is about alienation and disconnection. Specifically, what happens when people feel threatened by their immediate surroundings. His work also focuses on exploring the timelessness of things which hold perpetual relevance; the experiences that don’t go away.
Sometimes, the writing is on the wall. In a visual language, that is. Colla’s public works across the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Miami, alter external space with only his permission, his purpose and a bold yet limited palette. Colla sees this aspect of his work as a necessary opportunity to offset the excess of advertising bombarding the urban landscape and to broaden the audience that exists outside the parameters of the gallery experience.
Inside the walls, his portraits prefer to investigate our imperfections, gracing galleries across the country, France, Mexico, and The Netherlands. There is an oxymoron of simple complexity in both his work and his persona, quiet proof that “Eddie was here.” That we are here. Sharing in a multi-layered existential crisis.
Colla grew up in New Jersey. He came to the Bay Area because he wanted to get as far away as possible from there without having to learn a new language. For the past five years, he has maintained a studio in East Oakland. Prior to the pandemic it served as a layover and a place for storage. After Trump got elected, Colla promised himself he would remain out of the country as much as possible, which he did.