Photo cred: Sam Angel
Welcome to the second installment of These My Nominated Bitches! Today's bitch was nominated by friend and fitness hero, Alexis Hoag. I've since had the pleasure of meeting Ashley and seeing her work in person. You guys, go see her work, and in the meantime, follow her on Instagram. Alexis, take it away!
I first encountered Ashley through her well-earned reputation as someone shaking up the local art scene. Native Magazine published a piece on her last fall, detailing Ashley’s personal story and some of the themes she tackles in her work – race, gender, sexual violence, and slavery. Queer women of color experience the world in ways that draw on the intersectionality of our identities. Knowing Ashley was here in Nashville expressing her unique experiences and perspective through art excited me. I remember thinking, I have to meet her; I have to see her work in person! I immediately started following her on social media and viewed a small collection of her work at the Wedgewood-Houston Art Crawl in January. Nashville Dry Goods store featured a collection of five of Ashley’s cross stitching pieces and two ink drawings. I was blown away. Ashley’s deceptively simple lines told an explosive and raw story, ripping apart idolized images of slavery popularized by Gone With the Wind, and turning those images on their heads with nudity, subtle text, and honest brutality.
I finally got the chance to meet Ashley at her second big solo show in February, “A History,” at Channel to Channel. She was rocking a sequined jacket and standing proudly with her mom. I felt like a fangirl when I introduced myself, gushing about her work. She could not have been kinder. Ashley’s paintings at Channel to Channel were mesmerizing. The white face, pink hair, and expressive eyes featured in many of the works were captivating. Nashville is so fortunate to call Ashley a “native,” as is anyone who encounters her art. It gets under your skin and in your brain, forcing you to grapple with whatever assumptions you may have regarding race, gender, sexuality, and power. Although Ashley’s paintings and the cross stitches share the same subject matter, the mediums are incredibly different and Ashley excels in both. I met Ashley a second time when I purchased one of her ink drawings, “Master Leeroy’s Mansion,” at Watkins, where she is a student. She was warm, approachable, and chatted easily about her work.
Already incredibly accomplished, Ashley has an exciting road ahead of her. I am thrilled to witness some of her Nashville journey and happy to share her talents with others! -- Alexis
I’m a fine artist and have been the assistant at Watkins’ Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Gallery for the past four years.
When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?
Art has always run in my family and I simply decided to pursue it out of wanting to be immersed in a creative field where I could flesh out my talent and touch the lives of others actively.
What is the best piece of advice you were given when starting out?
I honestly was never given any advice off the bat. Many in fact were advising me to not make the work that has given me so much recognition. If anything, my mother has actively told me to make quality work with a message and to stick to my guns. My mentor Brady Haston has been also very direct with me when it comes to creating pieces that demonstrate my skills, as well as communicate my ideas effectively, whereas early in my freshman year of college he told me to keep sketchbooks as a foundation for my practice.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned? Has learning from that mistake led to success?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the art world is to be very careful of people’s intentions towards you. I have learned to not jump at every opportunity that comes my way and have as a businesswoman come to know how to decipher what other’s goals and aspirations are for my hard work. It’s been very lucrative for me as of late, but some connections are not long lasting ones or very dependable.
What would you do with 2 more hours a day?
Paint for sure! Making art is my life!
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a sacrifice, but I would say limiting my time online when it’s not pertinent to my career. That means cutting back on distractions that keep me stationery in a computer chair rather than me being in my studio making work. When I’m not being distracted or filling my mind with useless dribble, I’m more clear in my ideals and can make work.
What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?
As of late, all of the positive press as well as the gallery shows I’ve been a part of have been very rewarding. I’m proud that I am making those who care about me proud as well as the fact that I am enlightening others on issues that surround the African American experience. In a way, I am an educator by proxy as an artist, and it’s a very life enriching task that’s befallen on my behalf.
What do you love to come home to at the end of the day?
My family and my studio! My home is very important to me. It’s a place where I can unwind, shut off, or engage with my mother.
What motto or quote inspires and motivates you to be yourself?
“He that likes to exalt himself shall be abased”, Luke 14:11
Although I am not very religious, I am extremely spiritual and knowing that those who have too much bravado and no humility about themselves will eventually be brought back down to Earth is spellbinding to me. It’s one of the things that keeps me humble through anything that comes my way or gives me notoriety. It also means that God as the supreme judge will handle those who act in this manner curtly and precisely.
When self doubt hits, what do you do to build yourself back up?
Most of the self doubt that I’ve faced has come from outside sources simply telling me that I will either not amount to anything or that my work is, quite frankly, not doing anything to educate others. Being written off as an ‘angry black woman’ or having my gender identity be denounced in academic settings at one point was very devastating to me and forced me to be quiet. In the end, I have learned from several other artists of color, as well as my main support system, that my voice is valid and deserves to be amplified. I look back on my ancestors especially and how they were silenced and forced into the shadows, and in this day and age, I refuse to do such a thing. It only serves to make me push harder and harder!
Is there a fear or challenge that keeps you up at night?
At the moment I am concerned with grad school, but I put everything in God’s hands and I wait patiently. I try to take one day at a time and keep with a mentality that some things are out of my control until the day comes for them to come into fruition.
Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?
My mother fore-mostly, as well as my grandmother. There are several young women in Nashville as well as around the world who see my work as having a very strong feminist vein, especially in the world of intersectional feminism. I have also been nurtured by several older women of color who are artists and educators who are doing amazing things in their communities and world wide. Many of the people who patronize my work have as well been women, so most certainly!
Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?
At the moment I’m obsessed with West World. It’s just a fantastic take on an old sci-fi film. As for snacks? If a hot bowl of ramen counts, then that has to be it.
All photos courtesy of Sam Angel
P.S. Meet last week's bitch: Clinical Trial Manager, Shanna Cobble!
P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.