Briefly describe the work you do.
My work explores personal narratives that revolve around the choices we make at key life junctures. Currently, my artwork represents a means for me to explore my alternate selves who did not chose to be become an artist. I present these narratives in soft oil painting glazes which lighten the overall mood of the paintings and elicit feelings of joy from the viewer; thus, creating a juxtaposition of my own fears and doubts with their enjoyment of the work. While I consider myself primarily a painter, I have branched out to sculpture, installation, woodworking, and graphic design. For instance, to construct narratives, I use Photoshop as a tool to alter images and create a digital composition before the painting process.
During my graduate studies I have maintained a blog that focuses on sharing art tips, and introducing artists to a wider audience, my mission statement: “my artwork, helpful art tips, and inspiring artists” (www.AshleyCummock.com).
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
My paintings have been inspired by my own past experiences and relationships. In college I was on a path studying science before deciding to pursue a life as an artist. Like many people, I struggled with that decision then and now, always harboring a seed of doubt about the choice I made. Recently, I have used my artwork as a means for me to explore my alternate selves who did not chose to become an artist. Through my paintings I humorously present childhood dreams that depict me becoming a doctor, living amongst the animals, or going on great adventures.
I also rely on my liberal arts education to address topics that I found interesting during my studies, particularly of Greek mythology. I have made several works where I reimagine ancient myths with myself and/or contemporary celebrities (e.g., Martha Stewart and Donald Trump). Obscuring Greek myths or historical works of art with relatable figures allows my works to speak to viewers whether or not they have an art history background, which is something I find very important
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Currently my apartment doubles as my studio, enabling me to spend as much time as possible during the day working on my paintings. Being at home also gives me access to the tools (e.g., Photoshop) I use to create digital compositions that guide my paintings. Being within steps of my computer, printer, and canvas allows me to seamlessly update and change my work. Additionally, I try to work on different aspects of 3 to 4 paintings at a time, as I feel variety keeps my works fresh, and working in my apartment enables me to work on a piece at any given moment when inspiration strikes.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I never thought that would be exposing my own ambitions, both realized and not, so openly to the public. My early work abstracted the meanings behind my works offering me a layer of protection, but now I am prominently displayed in my work – exposing my own personal doubts and fears about my chosen career. I hope that my artwork can help others look within themselves and remember the dreams they had as children. I keep these dreams as part of me through my paintings, perhaps I can inspire others to keep their dreams alive as well in their chosen path of life.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I find that inspiration to work a particular piece can come at any given time, so I don’t limit the time of day in which I paint. Because my apartment doubles as my studio, I find that being close to my work enables me to complete my visions before they fade.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has evolved tremendously over the past five years, in both the style and subject manner. My older work focused on landscapes and sitting portraits, the composition of these works was simple and the brush strokes were heavy. When I moved from the San Francisco bay area to Madison, WI I began to create complex surrealist paintings that were in the style of Neo Rauch. I am very proud of the subject manner and narratives of these paintings, but my lines were still heavy and my characters were flat.
In graduate school I found my stride by simplifying narratives and painting in much softer oil glazes, giving the characters a sense of depth and not detracting from the composition. Throughout the years I believe the concepts behind the works have been consistently strong; in fact, I am constantly tempted to re-create many of my previous works with a more streamlined composition and consistent style. Nonetheless, I find that I am continuing to grow as an artists and each new work helps me to refine my practice.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
As a painter interested in science, my earliest muse was Leonardo Da Vinci. More recently, I have been greatly influenced by Neo Rauch, specifically his surrealist composition and style. I find myself constantly studying his work and finding inspiration in the tiniest details. I have also been impacted by the current rise of reality TV and its impact on educational programming. A current work “Finding Bigfoot” deals with the reality that a searching for and failing to find a mythological creature may somehow be a desirable career choice. Lastly, I find inspiration in pop icons, such as Donald Trump and Martha Stewart, because they embody many complexities and contradictions. Using their likenesses in my work helps to relate to the viewer and causes the viewer to ask themselves, do those icons deserve the status they have obtained?
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
As discussed above, I grappled with the decision between art and science in college but ultimately choose art as my life path. This decision has fueled much of the work I am creating today. Besides art, I really enjoy science, particularly medical sciences. I enjoy keeping up with the latest medical trends and breakthroughs and perhaps will apply these concepts into my future works.
Ashley Cummock-Rose holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California, and is a candidate for a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University. She also founded the website AshleyCummock.com “my artwork, helpful art tips, and inspiring artists”.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.