And everyday, I get to experience a little bit more of her world, because Ashley Longshore, globally celebrated artist, is also my boss.
Entering the studio in the morning for work, I’m immediately bombarded with sound as the loud rhythmic bass of Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” blasts throughout the building. Ashley has undoubtedly been in her studio since sunrise, painting like a wild woman. Buttercup, Ashley’s Basset Hound (aka BOSS) showers me in her routine morning kisses.
I look around the studio and see dozens of paintings featuring women, full of color and texture. Her most notable muses, Audrey Hepburn and Frida Kahlo, grace one half of the gallery, bedazzled and covered in gold leaves with butterflies or blue birds swarming around them. And one of my personal favorites, Wonder Woman (in the vein of Lynda Carter), stretches out her gleaming pink and white starred cape as the words, “You Will Make Your Own Dinner and You Will Love It” stand beside her taller than she is. They all glitter in the daylight, as delicate as they are fierce. A self-labeled feminist, Ashley’s work mirrors her reality with traces of both the world she observes as well as the world she longs to live in. She constantly ruminates on the question, “What does it mean to be an American woman?”
The doorbell rings.
A group of young women walk in, excitable and unable to contain themselves as they explore the gallery, likely also considering the possibility of seeing the artist herself. And that possibility is very high. People flock to this space, locals and tourists alike, traveling from all over to get a glimpse of Ashley’s world. Others, aspiring artists and entrepreneurs, come to seek out Ashley’s advice, and even amidst the whirlwind of a crazy workday, Ashley will freely provide it. She inspires and encourages artists—especially young women—not just by her generous insight, but by fearlessly being herself in a world that encourages conformity at every turn. In a recent Instagram post, Ashley’s caption read:
“The thing is that in America you can be anything and have anything you want if you don’t give up. You gotta work hard and chase your dream...You ain’t gotta fit anyone else’s mold...Just be you...It ain’t gonna be easy but you can do it!!”
The gallery, her work, and her identity all constantly remind us to keep working, but also (and equally as important) to keep having fun.
And Ashley’s business model follows this concept too. A firm believer in self-representation and accessibility, Ashley maintains a strong social media presence and uses platforms like Instagram not only to post funny and entertaining images and videos she finds, but also to post and sell much of her work. Her collectors span across the globe, many of them purchasing art directly from her Instagram. By establishing and maintaining an open connection with collectors, Ashley finds that galleries become obsolete in the buying process. Why give 50% of your proceeds when you can market yourself for free to a much wider audience? Pieces often sell before the paint even has a chance to dry on her canvas.
With the launch of a stunning collaboration with the global brand, Cle De Peau, and her continued work on her upcoming book, “You Don’t Look Fat, You Look Crazy,” it is an incredible time to be a member of Ashley’s team. Publications like Vogue, InStyle, Huffington Post, Forbes, and Elle (to name a few) have all recognized and commended Ashley’s growing influence in the art and digital world. With a line of home goods coming out shortly and new collaborations unfolding constantly, Ashley somehow continues to conceptualize refreshing new series. This seems to only be the beginning for Ashley Longshore.
The afternoon comes, and Ashley’s husband/photographer/chef, Michael, cooks up steak and boudin for lunch. As we sit in a circle and eat, we talk about our personal lives. We talk about the Kardashians. We talk about the day the first female president will be elected and how we will celebrate. We talk about what it means to be a feminist today. Ashley reflects, “Now that women have all this opportunity to make money, they aren’t necessarily out looking for a ‘daddy’ or somebody to pay their bills. My God, you have the freedom to love whoever you want to love, the freedom to do what you want to do.”
Having studied Gender Studies at Tulane University, analyzing and understanding the complexities of feminism has been an important part of my life for a while. Yet, being a part of Ashley's team is more than classroom learning; it is living it, it is being a part of the modern women’s movement. Ashley recognizes the importance of being surrounded by like-minded, talented women and lives this principle herself, continuing to support and inspire women to do things their own way. She enables our team through respect, openness, and support, resulting in a unique seamlessness that I haven’t experienced while working anywhere else. There are moments during the day when I look around at the beauty and strength Ashley has actualized, and I am amazed that this is how I get to spend my time.
I leave the studio every evening knowing tomorrow will bring something entirely new; a unique series or a different collaboration. New ideas float throughout the studio perpetually. The butterflies on her wall are fitting as Ashley is constantly reinventing herself and her work, morphing, evolving, and enchanting us all, and belly laughing the whole damn way.