Featured Artist: Letting Loose and Getting Technical
Ashley Wahba is currently a fine art student at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Below she comments on some questions I asked about her work.
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How long has your artwork been your main focus?
I’ve always tried to allow my art to be a main focus, since I was really young, nearly an infant to be honest, which I know comes off as a weird lie, but it’s not! I always knew I was supposed to create. Unfortunately I can’t always focus on art. Logistics and technicalities become a very frustrating hurdle that create a barrier between me and production. In the end though…however frustrating that is when it happens, it usually makes production easier. Maybe it’s because the forced breaks allow me to step back and think about where I’m going in my work.
Who/What has influenced your personal style most?
- I’ve been collecting old periodicals and artists books for longer than I can remember. Collected imagery is very important to me. I also am generally an avid collector of weird and offbeat things that always serve as good inspiration. The artists that influence my work changes every few months, depending on where my work is and where I feel it needs to go. And, I was born and raised in New Jersey… I think because it’s a culturally and geographically -and thus visually- diverse state, the sixth borough of NYC and then some, pretty much everything I come into contact with every day and have been exposed to throughout my life influences my style and interests. These things range from hand painted signs, long rides on the Parkway, and definitely exploring everything from wildlife and abandoned places to NJ’s most populated urban areas.
Does your style represent you, or do you try to separate from that?
- While everything I create is definitely derived from my interests and style, I think it’s important to ignore your conscious mind for the most part while creating. If work is contrived, like if I feel that I’m trying to hard to represent some part of myself or a thought, it becomes something that isn’t me in the least, and is a complete divergence from what I’m trying to do or say. I haven’t let go enough to allow myself to really come through. Similarly, I’ll admit that if I’m really attracted to someone else’s work, rather than allow it to influence me or inspire me, it sometimes feels like I’m maybe emulating someone else’s style too much, something that isn’t really mine, and is maybe too conscious, and that leaves me very, very uneasy…I guess I don’t really think about what my work represents. I just create it. I’ll let the critics and viewers make their own sense out of it. I don’t know if I can verbalize what it means to me; I’m already communicating these ideas visually.
Are there specific steps you take into consideration or do you generally flow with your artwork/photography?
- Process is very important to me. Since I usually create bodies of work that have some common thread, and it’s usually the mode I am working in to create these works and make them coherent that will determine how they are created. Like, one of my most recent completed bodies of work was about getting wet and messy while creating a ground for drawings… then it was also about going from getting loose to really switching my technique and having to look at the ground and figure out where to make these very obsessive-compulsive pattern and line drawings with technical pen that fit perfectly into the chance lights and darks created by the grounds. Like, getting loose and then getting technical.
What is the most intense part about RISD?
- The long hours. Taking in other’s people’s energy, especially their stress. RISD’s pretty notorious for their workload. It’s like we’re expected to sacrifice any life outside of school to be a student here. My hours last year were something like studio from 8 AM to 3 AM during the week. I think we even have any college’s highest suicide rate. Word on the street is that’s going to be fixed by our new president (MIT’s old president) and I admit I was bummed when I heard that. I love the competition and craziness and I guess even the lack of mental stability on everyone’s part, especially around final critiques. And being forced to create art and only being expected to only create art and do absolutely nothing else.
What is your favorite technique? Why?
- I’m in love with printmaking. The processes of screen-printing and etching and aquatint are so fun! And I’m in love with painting because it can be so sensual. I also like to explore new mediums that I’ve never worked with. It’s incredibly important to me to make sure that I do that.