Briefly describe the work you do.
I am a photographer, book artist, and educator. I’m also the Founding Editor of Light Leaked, an online photography magazine that creates dialogue and community. This series, Questions of Origin, investigates complicated aspects of the mother/daughter relationship and distills them into constructed narratives that evolved from my childhood memories.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
It’s difficult to look at your life and think, “How did I end up here, anyway?” In a lot of ways, this is a question that I address in this series. Through this work I am looking at my mother and the southern landscape where I grew up to consider how identity is formed and what IT all means. There aren’t really answers to any of this. I’m not sure what makes someone one-way and not another. But I am a curious type of person who likes to investigate, and consider the world. This led me to explore through art.
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.”
How I use my studio changes a lot depending on what I am working on. I do spend an incredible amount of time in front of the computer: editing images, scanning, printing, and doing administrative type work. Some of the physical making of my work (props, book editions, framed pieces) is also done there.
I believe in having a clean studio where everything has its place. Even if my house is a mess, my studio is an organized retreat. I think of it as my space where I am allowed to be an artist and go down any path of thought that might seem crazy in regular life.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
So many! When I first started I had a romantic idea of waking up and making art all day with no other worries. Of course that is what I thought it would be like, and non-artists still think that is what being an artist is like. But every artist is just a regular person who has a certain passion and drive for the arts. It’s because of this passion that I have taken on other roles: as an educator, community builder running Light Leaked, occasional curator, book keeper, accountant, etc… all roles that are necessary for me and are part of the practicality of being an artist.
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’m a night person, and feel like I get the best work done when I shoot at sunset and then work through the night. This is an ideal that is becoming less and less possible. I have to put time structures into place to get work done. Time can always slip away if you let it. And hey, sometimes it does. Forgiving yourself, accepting each day as a new opportunity to do better, and finding whatever time you can to make art is the only way forward.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
In some aspects of my work, I am standing on stronger ground. I feel like I understand myself better as an artist, and the essential questions my work is interested in. Because of this, I am interested in starting new paths in my work to answer these questions. This is all really vague as I am in a stage where I am figuring out the physical forms this will take, but I hope this state of unrest will continue as I explore new ground.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I try to be open and follow whatever curiosity strikes me: science, the Renaissance, nature, poetry… I like to research whatever interests me at the moment, and hope that it all comes together to create ideas for work. So far it has always led to something more focused.
Beyond that, I also take inspiration from what surrounds me: the southern landscape, my loved ones, and other artists.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Not in a way that has taken any kind of real form. I think that most artists are critical thinkers that are resourceful and smart. So naturally we usually have thought of some more practical arena to place our efforts. I’ve thought about being a librarian, an astronomer, a politician. To me, what is so great about being an artist is that you can be anything you want for a little while. You can pursue all your interests in your work.
Ashley Kauschinger is a narrative photographer and book artist that explores identity and family. She received her BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and her MFA from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. Her photographs have been exhibited nationally in venues such as the Griffin Museum of Photography and the RayKo Gallery. She has been published in the PDN Photo Annual, the South Atlantic Review, Lenscratch, Fototazo, F-Stop Magazine, and Flak Photo. She was a Critical Mass Finalist in 2012 and 2014.
Ashley is also the Founding Editor of Light Leaked, an online photography magazine that creates dialogue and community. Ashley lives and works in Columbia, SC where she is an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.