Fifteen-year-old Lyla Wright pours her emotions and physical pain into her art and is sharing her talent with others. She already has sold the piece included in the current exhibition at Oakland’s art and heritage center.
Lyla Wright keeps a positive attitude and refuses to be defined by the brain tumor, seizures and headaches that are holding her body hostage and threatening her health. She has discovered painting and said concentrating on her abstract art has been therapeutic and cathartic in her health journey.
The 15-year-old Oakland resident also is enjoying the thrill of having her first painting included in a gallery exhibition. A piece she titled “Rough Roads” is among the artwork at the Healthy West Orange Arts & Heritage Center at the Town of Oakland.
The black-and-white abstract represents the ups and downs of everyday life and was inspired by Lyla’s many surgeries and health issues.
The teenager began having seizures in 2013 when she was 7. They grew worse as she grew older. In 2017, doctors found and removed a benign brain tumor. She was diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri, which means “false brain tumor.”
However, the seizures returned three years later and it was determined some of the tumor remained.
Lyla went under the knife again in 2020 for shunt surgery in hopes of draining fluid that had been causing her sharp headaches.
“I started seeing dots,” she said. “I was having seizure after seizure after seizure. It was just a real rough time. I was just saying there still was that light.”
Lyla is undergoing surgery at the end of the month so doctors can remove the rest of the tumor and scar tissue.
“We don’t know how much brain is going to be removed,” she said matter-of-factly. “The good part is we might be losing the seizures.”
She remains in constant pain and has been told it won’t be alleviated by the surgery.
SEEING MUSIC, HEARING COLORS
Lyla never has had formal art lessons. Instead, she relies on YouTube videos for instruction and inspiration. She is fond of mixing mediums, depending on how she feels on a particular day.
She mainly uses acrylics on canvas but sometimes throws in a little watercolor.
“She likes to mix things into her paintings and get texture,” said her mother, Lisa Rauser-Wright. “She’s kind of like the mad scientist.”
Lyla has been known to put corn starch in the paint to make it thicker.
“I like to experiment and see what results I get,” she said. “I don’t want to lose my imagination; it’s a part of me. I feel like when I’m 80 I’ll still be in Lyla Land.”
Adding another layer to Lyla’s creativity is the fact that the artist has synesthesia.
“When I hear music, I see colors,” she said. “When I hear rock music, I see more reds and yellows and oranges. When I hear relaxing music, I see more blues and purples. Like in the movie, ‘Soul,’ how the music floats around. It’s very slowly, very subtle.”
She also has the ability to see in front of her the characters she draws.
“I have a huge imagination, and I see 3D characters that aren’t in front me,” she said.
Lyla’s artistic talents include sketching, and she has been creating Disney characters on paper for about five years. She likes sharing her pieces with others.
“When I’m in the hospital sometimes, I draw either my own characters or Disney characters and give them to nurses and doctors as a way to say thank you,” she said. “I asked if it would be OK if I gave them to children, and they said yes. I felt so joyful; that was emotional for me. I felt so much joy. My heart just felt happy.”
MAKING A WISH
In 2017, Lyla was granted a trip through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She chose her favorite place, Walt Disney World, and she and her family stayed at Disney’s Polynesian for a week. She also received a behind-the-scenes tour.
Her goal is to become an animator or Disney Imagineer.
She also visited Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, which provides weeklong cost-free vacations to children with critical illnesses and their families.
“I would like to go back and volunteer sometime,” Lyla said. “If I am able to be an Imagineer, I would like to make a piece and give it to Give Kids the World.”
Earlier this year she submitted one of her pieces for consideration on GKTW’s 2022 Christmas card.
Lyla plans to continue her painting — her canvas therapy. And she will continue creating art to sell and give as gifts.
One of her favorite pieces is a black-and-white cow on a bright red background. She painted it for her best friend, her sister, Michaela Wright.
“(Painting) gets my emotions out onto the canvas, and also it brings out a funny story, like the moo cow,” she said.
“(I’m grateful) that people have been supportive,” Lyla said. “Another thing that helps me with my art is, I can’t forget my dog, Tallulah Mae, sitting next to me as well — licking me, cleaning my brushes.”
The young artist will spend the rest of the summer creating her abstract art, and, in the fall, she will be a freshman at West Orange High School. She is the daughter of Oakland residents Dave Wright and Lisa Rauser-Wright.
The Observer has invested in new technology, so you can enjoy a more personalized online experience. By creating a user profile on OrangeObserver.com, you can manage settings, customize content, enter contests and more, all while continuing to enjoy all the local news you care about — Click Here it's FREE.