New Orleans artist and art market-savvy material girl Ashley Longshore creates mixed media paintings that explore beauty and femininity with brilliant color, provocative language and humor. Often compared to Andy Warhol, who made us look at commercial objects as though we were seeing them for the first time, this vibrant artist makes the objects in her work come to life.
Longshore has been in her studio at 4537 Magazine St. in Uptown New Orleans for two years now. Don’t imagine an industrial cube of a loft; it’s as much as a salon as it is a workspace. Remembering the excitement of entering that pure white space for the first time, she envisions her studio as a place where people can come to experience her art and be transported from their everyday lives into her world. Her studio also boasts a bedazzle wall, full of beads, faux jewels, sequins and other, well, bedazzlery. Lush flowers (think orchids, roses and peonies), settees, a disco ball and chandeliers set the mood for guests to enjoy her larger-than-life, boldly colored paintings and witty, statement piece furniture.
Portraiture is a constant in Longshore’s work. “I am energized by strong beauty,” she affirms. Her series of serene and beautiful portraits of Audrey Hepburn in profile is celebrated and much collected; everything from butterflies to glittery jewels fill and even escape from Hepburn’s bouffant hair. In her commissioned portraits, her patrons have enjoyed being represented by things they possess or by the source of their wealth, just like Rembrandt’s subjects. What the 17th century Dutch could have done with a black American Express card!
Though collaborations with companies such as Anthropologie have been successful, Longshore has concluded that she prefers to do it her way. This spring, Longshore plans to roll out a home line that includes rugs, mirrors and chairs, many unique and featuring hand embroidered, beaded images and phrases. The pieces will mix antique and contemporary styles. “Why can’t rooms be places of play and fun like when we were children? Why does that have to change?” she asks. “When I was a child, I hated those rooms I couldn’t enter. I hate greige – fuck minimalism!”
Longshore has shaped her career as an artist in a way that redefines the artist’s relationship to the collector. “It’s as sacred as marriage,” she comments. Social media became a mighty tool to reach potential collectors directly, potentially eliminating the role of gallery owners, who commonly take 50 percent of a sale. For artists who fear social media platforms, she advises that it is not enough to solely use technology. Those looking for art must get out there to meet the art and design communities.
Artgasm, Longshore’s four-year-old subscription series, defines a new take on the artist-patron relationship by offering several specially curated, signed objects for a modest annual fee. “It took a while to build but is very successful,” she says. “I wanted to offer collectors something special that would accrue in value.”
While New York is her favorite place to sell her art, “It’s full of peacocks,” she tells. “Europeans are more conservative about showing their money.” Though New Orleans has a slower pace, it’s a city that loves the arts and celebrates the wildness she loves. “I thrive on chaos” she shares, “but a few times a year, I take an inspiration trip to get out of my comfort zone, to be in nature in Maui or to study Dutch painting. I just want to keep growing and keep it all manageable.”
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