Ashely Longshore is a New Orleans–based artist, gallerist, and author. Through bright colors and sassy sayings, her artworks purposefully communicate how she feels—they are meant to resonate with the vast majority, not the few. In September, we saw her work take up the New York Fashion Week backdrop space at Spring Studios and appear on canvases and dresses in fashion shows for designers like Christian Siriano and Dennis Basso. In October, she also debuted her first coffee table book with Rizzoli, I Do Not Cook, I Do Not Clean, I Do Not Fly Commercial, which featured contributions by Tommy Hilfiger, Diane von Furstenberg, Linda Fargo, and Blake Lively.
Whitewall spoke with Longshore about how her role in society shapes her creative practice, what she loves about being an artist and gallerist, and why it’s all about what goes wrong.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about your creative background leading up to where you are today.
ASHLEY LONGSHORE: I was a very energetic, enthusiastic, awkward child. I never fit in. I didn’t know why, but I saw the world differently than mainstream and I needed to be expressing myself in a different way than society tries to push most people. So, when I was 19, I picked up a paintbrush and found an unbelievable thing that made me so joyful. That’s how I got here.
WW: We’ve seen your art infiltrate fashion spaces in the past, when you’ve partnered with designers like Diane von Furstenberg and brands like Bergdorf Goodman. Recently for Spring/Summer 2020 collections, we saw your work on garments at the Dennis Basso show, and inspiring Christian Siriano’s entire collection. Tell us a bit about your relationship to the fashion world.
AL: I love fashion so much and I consider myself a total fashionista. I love the idea that I can take these artful, creative things and put them on, and people can look and go, “Wow! She’s that type of bird.” We all express ourselves in different ways.
I adore Christian and I think he is so talented, and when he asked me if I wanted to be a part of the runway show, I was honored. Having one of Time’s Top 100 fashion designers say that their entire collection is inspired by my art is . . . damn. I’m a self-taught artist from Montgomery, Alabama. That’s just crazy.
And Dennis is just iconic. I adore him. He called me and asked me if I wanted to close the fashion show and I said, “Do you have the right number?”
I love to celebrate them as much as they love to celebrate the arts. It’s very entwined. You could have music that’s a cappella and you can have music where you add trumpets and violins and a guitar, and that for me is what culinary and visual art and fashion and poetry is. They all go together. It’s a symphony of life. That is exciting, and people need it right now.
WW: We recently interviewed Christian Siriano, and he mentioned that putting curvy models on the runway wasn’t something he thought of doing, but just did. His designs are a reflection of society. Can you tell us a bit about how your work is also a reflection of society’s thoughts and values?
AL: I can’t speak for society. I can only speak for myself and my role in all of that.
My perception of the places I’ve gone, the things I’ve seen, my role in society, my size as a human, my age as a woman—all of these things are just me and how I feel. It’s my job to paint what makes me feel good. It’s my job to paint things I’m thinking of. It’s my job to express myself in a way that makes me feel good or relieved or released. If anything, just to feel. To feel and then step back and look at my time in a tangible way. I’m addicted to it. It’s a drug to me.
WW: Tell us a bit about your creative process. Where does it begin?
AL: I get really tickled at a thought and then I will either have to ponder on that for a while until it clicks, or I’ll instantly know exactly what I want to do. Am I going to do a still life and then layer the text on top of it? Am I going to do these amazing headdresses that are one giant poppy blossom, and then be inspired by Ming vases? I think that inspiration is a lot like an orgasm. You have to figure out how to have that.
I know how to push myself into situations that are going to stimulate me and force me to open up my eyes and think differently. That’s what it’s all about—a synapse firing off in your brain.
WW: What’s an average day in the studio like?
AL: I wake up early, answer e-mails, get in, get my canvas up on the easel, get excited, get my brushes wet, paint, and then I have my assistants and gallery director come in. My schedule of the day gets e-mailed to me at six a.m. so I know when my calls are, when clients are coming in, my travel schedule, that sort of thing.
A lot of times when I’m on conference calls, I’m painting. I would like to paint and do everything because it’s my favorite thing in the whole world. Some days are mayhem, some days are not. I like the mayhem, and I also like it when it’s not like that. At the end of the day, the best is that there’s always art to show for my time. And that’s something I love so much about being an artist—taking a thought and making something tangible.
WW: Have you been anywhere or seen anything that’s been particularly inspiring for artwork lately?
AL: I just got back from Iceland, the Netherlands, and Austria. I went to Crystal Worlds in Austria, and it was unbelievable. There was a permanent [Yayoi] Kusama installation and unbelievable art by world-renowned artist Manish Arora with unicorns vomiting up crystals. I was so blown away by the artistry and everything that I saw.
When you go out in the world and see other art and how other people are expressing themselves, you realize, “I can’t put limitations on what I want to express.” You have to find the courage to say exactly what you want to say.