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“Waaasssup?” artist Ashley Longshore hollers when I enter her Magazine Street studio. “You can sit on the ‘what the f—- chair,” she says, directing me to an antique chair reupholstered with a shiny red cushion emblazoned with the letters “WTF,” gesturing with hands decked out in gold bracelets and oversize baubles. Her line of chairs, pop-art paintings and collaborations with huge brands like Anthropologie have earned her famous friends and collaborators like actress Blake Lively, collectors that include Wall Street’s elite and write-ups from magazines including Vogue and Elle. Longshore is inspired by the plastic-like opulence of American wealth and religious-like devotion to designer bags and pop culture icons, creating cheeky mash-ups – like model Kate Moss in a nun’s habit wearing a gold Chanel chain – in her works. Longshore spoke to us as she worked on a holiday collaboration with a global cosmetics brand.
Q: What was the tipping point in you becoming a nationally successful artist? I think the whole thing about being an entrepreneur is you’re trying different things and you’re putting yourself out there and putting yourself in different markets, constantly, and hoping that most of those things are successful. As much as I love New Orleans – this is my homebase and where I love to paint, and I can’t imagine living anywhere full-time than here – I focus a majority of my marketing efforts in much larger art buying markets, New York, Miami, L.A., Switzerland, Antwerp … that has sort of has just lent itself to the success I’ve had. I’ve cast a lot of different nets in a lot of directions.
The bottom line of everything is just really hard work. I put my feet on the ground starting at 6 a.m. working in my studio. Most days I work 12 to 15 hours.
Q: Was there a moment when you realized you had to be more strategic? My whole career. It’s easy for people who maybe have rich husbands, trust funds, who have been given a big check. They don’t feel that fire, and for me it’s always been the hotter the fire, the stronger the steel. I wake up every morning and think, I’m so grateful for the success I have had, but I’m pretty fucking level at the end of the day because I’ve worked my ass off for every fucking thing. It’s not unexpected – that’s another thing, I’m traveling all over the world all throughout the year. Being an American woman, being an entrepreneur in this country, the opportunities I have, this is the only country where we have true liberties. I embrace that every day. It’s like the wind in my sail. If I have an idea, and I work hard enough, I can make this happen. I think if you can apply that to any profession you’ll have success. You just have to know there’s no instant gratification.
Q: How did your sensibilities as an artist evolve? It was color, color, color from the get-go. I’ve always loved fashion and pop icons, but I think there’s a bigger statement here. I think my biggest interest is American consumerism, American greed, American liberties and the fact that the greatest part of this country is … that we have the liberty to make as much money as we want. I’m a little bit obsessed by that. In that, maybe the bag that you carry will define you in this country. The car you drive will let people know how important you are. We may try to fight that, but it’s the truth. I think I’m exploring that. Through my Audrey Hepburn series, it’s more of an expression of just being beautiful, elegant, ladylike, daydreamy, this image of this woman who was philanthropic and gorgeous and maternal. I think I crave that in my own life. I’m not close to my mother, so I paint these very strong female figures who to me are like mother figures in my life: Anna Wintour, Madonna, Audrey Hepburn.
Q: How did that factor in growing up? What kind of people were you surrounded by? My mother was a stay-at-home mom and just fucking miserable. She’d be in the middle of a screaming fit, and next thing you know the door would open and [in an exaggerated Southern drawl] “Hey! Welcome! Can I make you a drink?” My father started his own company and was very successful … but the greatest gift he gave to me was to not give me shit.
Q: How do you shut off when you need to rest from work? There is no shut off. Actually, are you kidding me? This is show time.
It’s all about love in the end of the day. I’m not a surgeon; I’m an artist. I make people happy. n
Occupation: Artist/entrepreneur Age: “Old enough to know better.” Born/raised: Montgomery, Alabama Education: University of Montana Favorite movie: Mean Girls Favorite TV show: “Iconoclasts” Favorite hobby: Fishing and entomology Favorite restaurant: In New Orleans: Lilette at table 51, and in New York City , Blue Ribbon Sushi on the Lower East Side Favorite book: art books or the Gagosian Quarterly Favorite vacation spot: Maui, Jamaica, Antwerp. “Next vacation spot is Reykjavik, Iceland to see Northern Lights in October.”
I hate the feeling of paint on my hands.