Growing up in the South, New Orleans-based pop artist Ashley Longshore always wondered what life as a woman living in a big American city would be like. After falling in love with painting at a young age, she single-mindedly pursued a career as an artist, never taking no for an answer and finding cult status with her audience through social platforms like Instagram.
Her fascination with pop culture and the American vision of success, wealth and luxury is translated into an aesthetic that's loved by Instagram and celebs (like her friend Blake Lively) alike. It also caught the eye of Bergdorf Goodman, who chose Longshore to be its first female artist to have a solo exhibit with the iconic retailer ever (she now has six window displays on 5th Avenue in NYC). We caught up with the artist to learn about her process, her relationship with social media and how she never focuses on the negative:
When did you first start making art?
I started making are when I was a teenage girl. I was in that awkward stage not knowing what the hell I was going to do with my life. I hijacked my Dad's Amex and bought a paint kit. I sat on the living room floor and painted for 8 hours and didn't know where the time had gone. I felt a bliss I had never felt before, with not only what I had created but from within myself. I realized that painting would save me. I realized it would save me from not knowing where I fit in to this world.
When did you turn your eye on pop culture?
I feel like being raised in the South I always had this fascination about what it would be like to be a woman in New York, or Los Angeles, or Paris. I think being a woman in America, it is impossible to ignore the very things that define us in our society. Throughout my quest to find myself, it only seemed natural to identify with pop culture and the very moment that I have been living and learning in.
When did a career in art start to feel like a real possibility for you?
From the moment I sat on the floor with that first paint kit that I bought, I instantly knew this was something that I wanted to do as a career. I didn't know how I was going to make it happen yet but I knew that being an American woman, there would be a way. I wasn't going to give up until I found that…and here we are now.
I was also very inspired by other artists who were making careers for themselves. Also, I clung to the idea that I didn't have to use the gallery system. I knew that if I tried hard enough, I could find my own path. That was very important and has been crucial in how I've gotten where I've gotten in my career.
Social media seems like it's been a way for artists to circumvent that system and find an audience directly. What's your relationship with the platform?
Being an artist in this day and age is so incredible because I have all of these tools that are free to use. Instagram is so important to a female artist! It's so amazing for me to stay connected to my collectors. It's not just a sales platform, It's my journal. It's my journal of daily positive thought and things that make me laugh. It's artists that I love, jewelry that I love, music, artists, flowers, it's all there!
It's an incredible time to be an artist. And the instant gratification of it is so exciting. I post a photo and two minutes later, someone texts me their credit card number to buy the painting! That's amazing. True freedom in America is only being able to depend on myself. Using these platforms allows me to do so and is absolutely incredible.
How do you stay focused and ambitious in a world that is less than kind to women artists (and women in general)?
I'm extremely focused and very ambitious. Even 'amBITCHous,' if you will. Anyone who is less than kind to a female artist or less than kind to a woman in general, only fuels my fire more. To continue to build my company, to continue to work harder, to continue to be inspired other artists. Not only for myself, but for other women. If you try hard and don't give up you absolutely can make it. I'm not going to tell you what I don't have or can't do. I have all of this opportunity! I will give you one hundred reasons why I can do something. I don't think about people not being kind to me, it's just not an option.
What message or feeling do you hope your works portray?
It's a selfish thing being an artist. When I create a painting, it is totally and entirely for me. It's something beautiful, or maybe not. It's a moment in my time, here on this earth. I feel like my clientele is drawn to color, humor, something whimsical, beautiful, natural. I know that the person who can relate to what I'm creating gets me and that's all that matters. I think or hope that my work portrays the woman that I am.
What's your process like and what types of works are your favorite to make?
I love to make everything! I'm all about making 'Ashley World.' I'm sensitive and sometimes the outside world scares me a bit. I have this vision in my mind that I'm trying to bring out of my head and make into tangible items. I want paintings and sculpture and furniture and wallpaper! I am trying to create a feeling, damnit. The same way a musician puts together a symphony of sounds, and it elevates your mind and your body. I can't put myself in to any mold. I love to make little films, I love sound, I love to do it all, I really do!
You just became the first woman to do a solo exhibit with Bergdorf Goodman. How did that collaboration come about?
One of the head buyers in the home department saw a piece about me on Women's Wear Daily. She also saw and loved a portrait of Lil Wayne I did for the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans. She emailed me and asked me if I wanted to be a part of an art installation with other artists. I said yes, of course! But please can I have the opportunity to do the entire hallway? I could be your artist, I could do this, this could be me! I did my work and I hustled and they absolutely loved it and agreed. Little did I know that I would be the first female artist that had ever been given a solo gig at Bergdorf Goodman and on top of that, six windows down fifth avenue.
Do you feel any ambivalence about being embraced by the same world you're depicting?
Hell no! Quiet honestly, ambivalence is something I don't feel. Who the hell would be ambivalent about someone embracing them? I just got endorsed by the top luxury retailer in the country! I love fashion, I love any outlet that allows people to express themselves in this society. Hell no, I'm not ambivalent! I'm over the moon. I'm twerking right now. That's how excited I am right now! I've never even said the word ambivalence.
Photography: Alexandra Arnold