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Interview: Ashley Ross's Iconography

Interview: Ashley Ross's Iconography

Lives and works in Bay Area, California

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

I don't remember if there was one specific moment where all of sudden I knew I was an artist but I have always been drawn to storytelling and using my imagination. I’m an only child. So I was either with my parents or by myself most of the time, which allowed space for lots of daydreaming and creative thinking.

Little Saint, 2021

What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?

I’m originally from the South Bay of Los Angeles, California. I grew up with two parents who were artists themselves. My father was a painter and my mother studied modern dance. Due to socioeconomic reasons, they couldn't be the full-time artist they wanted to be as they were raising me but art was something that my parents encouraged me to appreciate and value.

I originally grew up loving drawing and painting. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school where I took an intro to digital photography class where I began to explore a different medium. Immediately I became attracted to the control I felt it gave me. I always have felt limited by a canvas. Photography has never been just about controlling a narrative and representation for me, I’ve always viewed it as a preservation tool more than anything. Whether it’s preserving culture, history, people, or experiences, the medium of photography has continued to be at the forefront when it comes to preservation.

What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?

Outside of exploring themes around identity and representation, recently, I’ve been using my childhood religious experiences to guide my artistic decisions in this particular project. There is a lot of symbolism in my work. I liked the idea of reappropriating religious iconography and reshaping its context to be in conversation with the other themes I’m exploring. I was also thinking a lot about duality when working on this project and wanting to explore ideas around innocence and inner turmoil.

A Return To The Water, 2021

Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?

My biggest source of inspiration will always be coming from a place of experience and then me looking to sources outside of myself to help rationalize them. I consider myself an observer. Whether it’s people, places, or energies that I can feel around me, I assess my surroundings often. I also get a lot of my inspiration from the conversations that I have with friends and peers. Great conversation will always lead to asking more questions which then leads to further exploration and insight of the world around us.

mom getting ready

Where do you find inspiration?

Reading has become essential to not only my practice but how I evolve and rationalize the world around me.  For example, I always mention  Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr Joy Degruy. It’s become influential in my choice to acknowledge and explore themes around how history, legacies, and traumas impact are present. 

mom and dad holding me before my first baptism

Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?

My recent project 10/27/03 I would say is pivotal in my current trajectory. I began this project about two years ago and seeing how its evolved and maifested into something bigger than I imaged has been really exciting.

For Dust You Are And To Dust You Shall Return, 2021

How did it begin? and how did it evolve?

It started with asking myself a lot of questions. Family and legacy were the main focuses in the beginning. I was pulling a lot from my family photo archive such as old wedding photographs of my parents in the church that I grew up in. I was beginning to correlate my parents' ultimately broken marriage with inherent issues within the church itself. As I continued to explore my personal archive I came across a baptism certificate I received as a child after being baptised, given a “spiritual birthday”, and then it declared that I was given a “new birth experience.” I began asking myself more questions around indoctrination and growing up with complicated spiritual beliefs and how it's affected me over the years. This project is directly influenced by my own experiences and became a way for me to visualize and interpret an inner dialogue.

Facing Giants, 2021

What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?

Overcoming fear is always a struggle. Whether it’s the fear of failure or opinions about the work, there's always that critic in your head that tries telling you you’re not good enough.

What are you working on now?

This body of work is still new. So I would say I’ve transitioned from just wanting to create captivating and allegorical imagery to now wanting to see how it translates within a physical space. Creating an installation or making video work in relation to the project are just some ideas I have.

A Photo of My Rebirth, 2021

If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?

I would tell myself to keep going. No matter how terrible you think it looks or how it might not make sense, it’s the journey and process of creation that pays off in the end.

The Water Cleanses, 2021

About the Artist

Based in Bay Area, California

Ashley Ross currently works and resides in the Bay Area. Her personal work explores familial legacy and cultural aspects of black existence. Through the use of family archives and allegorical portraiture, her work seeks to investigate and make connections between understanding how traumas and experiences contribute to and inform our identity.

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