From: Montgomery, Alabama
Currently based out of: New Orleans, Louisiana
Pursuit: Pop Artist
1- Bergdorf Goodman!?! Describe your creative process/journey to Fifth Avenue.
I got an email one day, from one of their head buyers...they wanted me to have a few paintings in a gallery-type layout they were doing in the hallway. I was like "Listen, why don't you give me the opportunity to put together a PDF to show you the full range of what I can do. I make furniture, sculptures, I'm super prolific...I think I can have the whole hallway, myself." I sent over a PDF and heard back the next day...They said "You've got it --we want you to have [the] whole thing". And little did I know that I'd end up being the 1st female artist given a solo exhibition, in the history of Bergdorf Goodman.
2- How does it feel to have actual royalty, amongst your notable collectors?
It's pretty cool -last week I sold two paintings to a Saudi Arabian princess. I think it's a huge nod to my marketing efforts. Hard work always pays off, you just have to be patient.
3- What projects are you currently working on?
I have some huge global collaborations that I'm doing right now, that are really exciting. I have a huge release coming out on Monday [8/27] with Judith Leiber with some huge surprises, which I'm really excited about. I'm also working with two of the top pop stars in the world right now, for some things that they're doing ---so that's pretty cool. It's exciting. I've never been in this place before, I've never had this much opportunity.
4- Although we realize that no two days are alike, what's a typical day like in your world?
Wake up. Dance. Emails. Sparkles. Shit Shake. Dance. Studio Work. Dance.
5- Consistency is key, what can't you go without?
I have to have 8 hours of sleep. I love my time in nature -like right now, I'm on sabbatical. I think the most important things to me are really, having nature accessible and [getting] 8 hours of sleep. When you put out as much energy as I do, [you] have to regroup.
6- How would you describe your personal style?
The NYTimes said it's a "mix of hip hop star and gypsy priestess."
7- How did life lead you to become a pop artist?
This is how I see the world. This is how my brain works.
I started painting when I was 18 years old -I needed an outlet. I found painting 100% on my own --never went to art school. Right out of the gate I loved color and I loved 'in your face. I loved figurative. And so, obviously over the past two decades, with my experiences and my understanding of myself as a woman in American society, my artwork has changed based on that. I love things that give me a reaction. BIG, over the top, bold statements. And large, huge images, of beautiful women, combined with elements of nature. Add glitter, add bedazzle, add resin, add shine -it makes me feel alive. I don't think it's a conscious decision to go 'I'm gonna be a pop artist'. It's just who I am.
8- What do you find most challenging about your career?
9- How do you stay inspired? Any vote of confidence you've received that you're so thankful you did?
OMG. I get the sweetest emails and messages from people every single day -you wouldn't believe. The messages I get from people saying, "thank you for being who you are. Thank you for putting yourself out there. Thank you for sharing self love. And your IDGAF attitude." I probably cry from happiness at least 10x a week. It's really f*ckin beautiful. Staying inspired is not an issue for me. I learned years ago, to eliminate anybody in my immediate circle that was toxic, that was jealous or gossipy -and I don't mean jealous of me, I just mean as women, you go from college into these groups in your 20s and it's hard to find yourself. It's hard for anybody to find [themselves], whether you're a man or a woman. I feel like when I found art, I really found not only my happiness, but I found my income, I found my place. I think when you find yourself, you have to really eliminate people from your life that are insecure because they're just going to suck the f*ckin life out of you. I really eliminated people like that from my life a long time ago and focused my energy on my work, my relationship with my husband, my best friends, my family -and I think that when you get the rocks out of the soil, you're really able to grow and thrive. I think a huge part of self-love and being a successful entrepreneur [is] knowing who you are.. really being able to curate your people that around you. I surround myself with women that are smarter than me, that are more successful than me ---success being different definitions, I don't just mean money. Unbelievable mothers, unbelievable kind-gift-giving, thoughtful, unbelievably nurturing, incredible women, who are wise. I feel like because I've done that, it's really led me to the success that I'm having right now. It also keeps my mind open.
10- What are you most proud of -personally and/or profesh? Your most satisfying accolade thus far?
Inspiring others to just be themselves.
That's the greatest thing. Some people might go, "OMG, Ashley is so weird and she's wild and she's crazy." Well, not really..I have my own unique way of seeing the world. "I'm me. Yeah, my thighs touch. Yeah, I'm not a size 2. I feel like I'm beautiful. I love me some me! I can be an entrepreneur and try to tackle anything out in the world, because I have a strong foundation of who I am. That's the main thing I want to put out into the world. Stay away from people that cannot help celebrate you.
11- Any advise for young entrepreneurs and creative startups?
What I just said is probably my very best advice. Know that this ain't gonna be easy. This is not a 30 minute sitcom. I repeat, this is not a 30 minute sitcom. This is your life and you really have to view it like you're planting a garden. If I plant a mother f*cking seed today, I'm not going to pick apples tomorrow. I've got to make sure that this thing's got everything it needs -is it getting water, is it getting sun. A rabbit's going to try and pull out all my sprouts. You've got to have a level of patience in the yes' and no's that you're going to get every day. You just have to be ready for people to tell you no. You're going to get rejected, but that's when you get smart. Either you can handle the pressure or you can't. You've got to be ready to take the sh*t. On that note, where I am in my career, let's say the apple tree is tall and it's got apples all over it cuz I've been waiting.. now I've got to keep f*cking monkeys and squirrels from stealing all my fruit. This is an ongoing challenge.
12- Artgasm is an incredibly inclusive and generous opportunity for collectors and fans alike to gain special access to you and your work.
What prompted you to create this model?
You have to understand that my whole career has been galleries telling me that I'm not marketable --me being broke as hell --trying to figure out "How am I going to do this?". Artgasm was really spawn from me creating a platform that wasn't pulling prints or lessening my brand. Artists are entrepreneurs.
13- If you could live in one place forever, where would it be and why?
I love New Orleans so much. It's such an incredible city, that celebrates art. And the energy down there is absolutely contagious. I really love Rome… I don't think I can give you one answer on this because I'm inspired by so many different places. Right now I'm in Ashville -I love being in the mountains so much.
14- Words to live by?
I would f*ck me.
That's part of my whole 'self-love' gig right there. You look in the mirror in the morning (because you don't know what's going to happen during the day) and you say.. I have got this. You've got to give yourself a pep talk every morning. The same way those coaches get a football team fired up before the Superbowl. If you're not your own coach, I don't know how the f*ck you're going to make it out there. If you can't be the person to get yourself fired up to go you've mother f*cking got this, then I don't know how you're going to take all the sh*tbombs the world's going to give you. You've got to be ready, man. And you can't compare yourself to anybody else. I also think that being gracious and enthusiastic are the best qualities an individual can have. Those two things have taken me a long way in business. I can't tell you how many things I've done in New York, where I meet these 26 year old girls that are so affected. I don't know if they just don't know who they are or what their deal is, but I'm looking at them going "Girl! Sh*t, girl! Let that light shine!"
16- What's one thing people don't know about you?
I don't like cocktail parties. I hate them. I like intimate occasions. I hate small talk.