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Arts / Home + Design

The New Queen of Pop Art Tackles Texas

She’s Bold, Brash and Undeniably Southern — Embrace the Crazy

BY // 09.15.17

Move over, Tracey Emin. The bold and brash New Orleans artist Ashley Longshore lands in Dallas this month.

Christened “Andrea Warhol” in a New York Post profile, the refreshingly unfiltered Longshore parallels the late Pop king in her attention-getting studio practice melding art and commerce, with a dash of Salvador Dalí.

This month, Longshore debuts her new home-furnishings collection at For Home Forty Five Ten, alongside canvases that have caught the eye of Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, and Penélope Cruz.

At the heart of it all is a small-town Southern girl who’s turning the art world on its head with text-laced works filled with wit, beauty, sparkle, a saucy intelligence, and Pop luster that make this painter and personality unforgettable. It is indeed Ashley time.

Ashley Longshore at For Home Forty Five Ten — shop her Pop-Up Gallery at the store, September through October. 

Here follows, our exclusive PaperCity chat with Miz Longshore.

You have a big personality so I will not have to ask you to speak up. 

Of course! You only live once.

Are we reaching you in your studio in New Orleans?

Yes! I’m actually here right now as we speak.

Perfect! OK, so what painting’s on your easel?

I’m working on a 36” x 96” gorgeous Audrey Hepburn. She has this massive floral headpiece full of heliotrope and iris. And with my favorite moth which is the io month. It makes me so happy. Color makes me feel alive. I’m so happy to be bringing my color and sparkle to Texas.

Let’s start at the beginning: Where did you grow up? Your background? And then we will get into the art world. 

I started painting when I was 18-years old. I took my father’s American Express card, I told him I was going to buy a hobby after I took the card. And I bought a set of drums. I bought a painting kit. It was like escaping into my own thoughts — into a place of beauty and meditation.

I think we all want to find that in our career. We want to find something where we’re getting paid to do something that makes us really happy.

I’ve grown up in Montgomery, Alabama and I’ve always been in ballet and jazz and tap and theater. My mother did not know what to do with me because I was a high-spirited wild child. So she never had me in art. I do not think she thought I could ever be still enough. I really found it on my own and then I thought, ‘Well you know what? I’m going to make this my career.’

Big break.

I had my first art show in college and at that point I had read about a well-known artist who had made $58 million dollars in one year and I felt so inspired.

If male artists can do that, then I want to be the first female artists to do that!

The artist’s autobiography promises to be titillating and unfiltered. Catch Longshore’s Dallas PA and pop-up at For Home Forty Five Ten. (Photo Alexandra Arnold)

And although the first 10 to 15 years were so difficult and I was so broke, I never lost sight of that American dream — where if I worked hard enough, things would actually work out.

Well, on that note, I’m so excited to be coming to Texas because I feel that there is no greater representation of the American dream than cities like Dallas and Houston. I feel that when other countries think about America they think about incredible stores, amazing restaurants, big fancy cars. And I think when you get to Houston and Dallas you see that’s so unavoidable and that’s why its so much fun to bring my work there.

Where did you attend college? 

I went to the University of Montana. I got completely and totally out of the south.

Oh I just went there last summer. The women there have to be pretty tough. 

Yeah, you gotta be tough as nails. I thought, why would I go the traditional sorority girl route when I can go to Montana and learn fly fishing, snowboarding, hunting, camping.

I hate things about status and greed. I really turned to nature as a way to really explore my thoughts. My parents were going through a divorce.

I feel that 95 percent of people if they’re honest would admit that you have the rest of your life to find out who you are, and who you want to be, and the crowd you want to hangout with, and the career that you want.

That’s not an easy task to take if you really want to find your true bliss. Going out to Montana and being in the upbringing that was so different than Montgomery, Alabama, it really fueled me and it opened my eyes to so many things and it was literally seven years of reflection and figuring out what I wanted to be.

Right after I just jumped right into the fray. I started going to galleries in New York and any time I would go with my friends I would make appointments with galleries and show them my portfolio.

Did you move to New Orleans after Montana? 

I actually moved to the East Coast for a couple of years and then I moved to New Orleans about 14 years ago.

Interesting. Now where were you living in the East Coast? 

I was actually in Providence, Rhode Island and I was dating somebody. I was continuing to paint along the way. I got an art show in New Orleans and I loved the city — bohemian and so supportive of the arts. I just decided that this was the perfect place for me to set up my studio and produce my art while marketing my art all over the world.

What year did you come back to New Orleans?

I was 27 and about to be 42 so whatever that is.

You’re so right about women in art history. Your work is feminine but it has this boldness. Can you talk about that? 

I’m painting my thoughts and I’m painting my own reflection about how I’m feeling with society and so it will only be natural that some of these thoughts that I’m having will turn into tangible objects.

I’m just so inspired by the opportunity we have in this country, and as much as I’ve traveled and spent time in India and China and also Japan, I just have the days of sitting back and shopping and doing Pilates all day. But those days are numbered.

What we’re talking about right now, I don’t know that the Texas-women market is what is screaming feminism.

When I think of Texas I think of very glamorous women with exotic-skin Birkin bags and the biggest diamonds I’ve ever seen, the biggest boobs I’ve ever seen and the biggest hair I’ve ever seen, and that whole traditional American idea of what success is.

Big rich, oil money husbands and houses bigger than hotels and most cities.

I think for me, as for a woman and how I was raised in Alabama, I just knew I really wanted my own company and to make my own money and really embrace that American dream on my own.

There’s plenty of days where I daydream about what it would be like to be a trophy wife in Texas.

There’s a lot of different reads on your works. You’re playing with all these ideas, this idea of rich and what that means. Your work is glamorous and looks like it’s all on the surface — but underneath there are a lot of ideas and concepts and it has a strong voice to it. 

As a woman who is running a multi-million dollar company, and whose doing collaborations with global brands, who is running three companies right now … I’ve got manufacturing, I’ve got my art gallery . and I’ve got my painting that I’m doing.

I mean honestly there are days when I just daydream about what it would be like to do Pilates all day and just get drunk with my friends and lunch and then go find an outfit to wear out to dinner with my husband.

That sounds awesome sometimes but other times …

I think there’s great power in making your own money and really winning the American dream on your own. This is really what I wanted.

It’s not so often you come to Texas because it’s like I said, Texas is really bigger and better baby. More, more more. I mean I love that, it’s so damn American.

There’s a different mentality because people aren’t waiting for someone else to decide what is going to happen in your life. I’m curious of you being an entrepreneur so the home collection, when was that launched?

It was something I started to get into production last year. I wanted to do it in a special way. I didn’t want to mass produce anything.

I wanted to make things that were indicative of my paintings, that have the same message, that create this Ashley world.

I didn’t want a thousand rugs, or ten thousand tables. I wanted to keep the art aspect and keep the idea that these things are special.

I did very limited edition of things. My signature is embroidered in almost everything, things are hand signed in numbers on the back.

And I think this is why it’s really cool to do this in Forty Five Ten because these are special. There’s so many things that I did that are exclusive that are just for Forty Five Ten. I feel like there’s such a great clientele for this color and pop that I’ve given.

Women in Texas like to have fun. They like to have parties, they love color, they love fashion, sparkle. I feel like it would be very well embraced.

So I started a manufacturing company and then I also have Artgasm where I produce really great items for my members. They are hand-signed, they come with letters. We cap off the membership at 300 members per year. That takes a lot of product development.

So you have the art gallery, the art manufacturing, and the Artgasm.  

Yeah! I mean my whole thing is that I compare everything to fishing.

How many lures do I have in the water? The more lures I have the more fish I can catch. So I think it’s good to be an entrepreneur … and having some ideas and being able to make them come to life.

That’s any artist. It’s exciting. I get my team together, and I say, ‘Anybody can walk through that door and we can get an email from anybody today.’ It’s such an exciting time to be an artist and an entrepreneur and a woman in business. It’s like the planets have aligned.

Now how many employees do you have?

I have seven full-time people who work with me and I have so many interns. There’s so many incredible colleges here in New Orleans where I have art students and business majors who work with me.

A lot of the times I have 15 – 20 people in here on a regular day-to-day basis. And we’re working on shipping to all of our clients directly. I just I never want to get to a point that I can’t deal with my clients directly.

Like the idea that if you bought something from Carolina Herrera, you would get to speak with or have an email from her sometime in the transaction.

So as much as I want this big huge American dream I also want to keep things very special and unique as an artist. And that’s why I don’t pull prints, I don’t make iPhone covers.

I’ve really stayed away from that traditional over-branding. I want to continue to make special things that not just anybody can have.

I knew you were in Anthropologie briefly. Are you doing that anymore?

I haven’t done anything with Anthropologie probably in seven or eight years. It was amazing though. They came down to New Orleans for more of an inspiration trip and then they found me.

It was such a good experience to start to learn about the manufacturing process — so funny enough their former president and head creative director is actually my business partner in my manufacturing company. She is no longer with Anthropologie so now she is my business partner! Its pretty awesome.

So where are you manufacturing?                    

Half in the United States, and I do a lot of manufacturing in India because of the beading, because of their stone work, because of their incredible rugs and their use of color. They understand my love of color. They even taste the dye on their fingers to make sure that the color is right. The artisans that are in India are … I mean it’s an incredible place with so much talent.

So when did you start your manufacturing?

About a year and half ago

Is that champagne table going to be at For Home Forty Five Ten?

Yes! My cork sculpture! I have three of those! I have Veuve Clicquot cork, a Dom Perignon cork … I think they are so much fun. At the idea of having a champagne cork that large — how big the bottle would be that it would come from! I just love that — it just tickled me.

Is there anything that is going to be shown for the first time at For Home Forty Five Ten?

Yes! I have a beautiful entry table, and I’ve had a few of rugs that nobody has seen. I will have three or four different types of products that will be available specifically to For Home Forty Five Ten that I’m really excited about.

And will your paintings be there as well?

Yes, I’m going to have an incredible collection of artwork that’s going to be available. Incredible.

Are there going to be some female icons at this show?

Always. I always love to have my female icons. Because to me I like to paint them large and bold because its sort of like when you go out to dinner with all your girlfriends you feel so brave and so strong when you are around these gorgeous women.

There will be Anna Wintour and there will be champagne bottles. I’ll have so many of my classy paintings. There will be caviar paintings, sculptures, giant Chanel pearls. It’s going to be really, really fun.

It sounds like there will be of more of an installation at For Home Forty Five Ten?

I have never done anything like this before. I am very protective of my work. I do not work with galleries. I am a one-woman show. But I just so believe in Forty Five Ten and how well curated are. I absolutely adore Brian [Bolke] and I was so excited that he felt so excited. It’s just so incredible that I have this opportunity to be in Dallas at this amazing store.

How and when did you meet Brian?

I had done a global collaboration with Clé de Peau Beauté cosmetics. I don’t know if you are familiar with them but they are absolutely incredible. And I was having a huge event at Neiman Marcus in North Park and that day I wandered into Forty Five Ten and I bought that very iconic YSL Heart fur to wear to the event that night.

Brian was like “Who bought that?,” and they looked me up. And they came to the event and they looked at my artwork and he was like “OK, this girl is fun. She is an entrepreneur. Her artwork is great.”

And he approached me about having a show and I was so excited …

What does your husband do? Is he involved in the business or something else?

He is a photographer and he does work with me. And he is absolutely wonderful and bless his heart he is the only male in this all female team that I have. So he is very good at working with women — demanding women.

He used to shoot a lot of events and things like that in New Orleans. As my company has grown, it has been necessary for him to be here full-time.

What you are doing is original and empowering.

I think the root of it is this — it’s using all the American freedom that I have in front of me — available for anyone if they are willing to work for it. Anyone could do what I’m doing if they are willing to work hard enough for it.

I think what I’m trying to put out there is not just my artwork and my ideas but also this energy and inspiration so that people can know that the American Dream is alive and real.

For if a self-taught painter from Montgomery, Alabama can become globally collected by billionaires and movie stars … I mean this is exciting. It’s an exciting time to be a woman in business and it’s an exciting time to be anyone in the United States if you are willing to work hard for it.

Even with the political climate and the way it is, ignore all of that — we still have so much freedom to have the opportunity to have an idea and get capital from it. That gets me very excited and gets me out of bed in the morning.

Who are some of your most inspiring collaborations that you are doing?

I have signed non-disclosure agreements with three huge global companies. I am not able to drop names right now. but what I can tell you is that the very end of 2018 is going to be very exciting, and the beginning of 2019 will be very, very exciting.

Have you infiltrated show biz with the Longshore brand?

Yes of course! I have a lot of celebrity collectors. I have many Hollywood collectors! In fact, one I feel comfortable mentioning just because she has talked about me in the media is Blake Lively, and [her husband] Ryan Reynolds. They’re big collectors of my work and they are absolutely wonderful.

Salma Hayek is a collector of my work. Excitingly enough, 90% of my billionaire collectors are right there in Texas!

So you have said your business is a seven-figure business, is that correct?

Heck yeah! Hell, yes! I have worked my ass off for that! This is America baby! Call me, Double-Comma Mama.

I mean what’s so awesome about being an artist is to have a company grow like this — and that idea that I can hire more people and start more companies and have the opportunity to take my wildest ideas and make them come to life.

And I think that’s what is so great about being an artist and an entrepreneur. It isn’t about I want to buy the biggest house on the street … [It is that] any idea that I have [can] come to fruition. So the more I get out there and the more people that love my art, the more people that embrace it, the more I can sell, the more I can create.

That’s why I don’t like to work with galleries. I like to know who my clients are, and know where my paintings are. This is an intimate thing. It’s an intimate thing to sell your art.

If there is anyone I could compare you to it would be Andy Warhol.

Yeah, New York Post actually named me the modern-day Andy Warhol. They called me “Andrea Warhol.”

Growing up did you have an entrepreneurial figure in your own home?

Oh yeah. My father ran a huge advertising agency — I am the female version of my father. He was always so supportive and energetic and enthusiastic about telling me I can be whatever I wanted to be if I worked hard enough — I could do it.

Nobody ever gave me any trust funds. I had to work for everything.

Early in my career when I decided to be an artist he said, “Look Ashley, I could write you a check. You’d be OK, or I could give you the best gift I could ever give you as a father and that is for you to stand on your own two feet.”

So no matter where I end up no matter — whether I ended divorced with three kids or whatever, I could always believe in myself and always take care of myself. And it is the best gift that anybody has ever given me.

Did I like it at first? Hell no. But I do now. I start everyday with a pep talk with myself … I have to believe in myself and in what I’m doing and I feel like if I can put it out there and into the world that this is what it is to be an entrepreneur: It’s about self-love, its about believing in myself.

Throughout my entire life, I have to be the person to take care of myself and I need to love myself and tell myself — I can do it.

Even with the things that were hard like I had to price shop with tortilla chips at Walmart or when my power got shut off and I had to pee in the dark, I could still sit there and say ‘Hey you got this! Be as creative with your marketing as you are with your artwork! You can do this. This is America, you got all this opportunity!’

So I just want to put that out there for people that there is endless opportunity and endless optimism to be had even in this extremely depressing political climate that people are having to deal with right now.

We’re talking about having an art show in Texas so I don’t want to get political. It isn’t about Republican or Democrat, black or white, or transgender or straight. It’s about — do you believe in the American dream, do you believe in yourself enough to go out there and make something happen

And for me, a self-taught artist from Montgomery, Alabama that didn’t get a degree in business, you know, who would able to be collected globally and to have the opportunity that I have right now only because I believe in myself and I used the opportunities that I had in this country.

That’s exciting. I mean, look at Forty Five Ten! Look at all these beautiful things, look at all these designers, look at this, this is amazing! This is incredible! This country, you know, regardless of all that. There’s so much beauty, so much optimism, so much talent out there. I’m gonna live in that world.

Was your mom more traditional or more exuberant? Your dad’s the entrepreneur.

My mom makes being pretentious a sport.

Well, you know you have the big personality and you know you draw people in. Everyone wants to meet that person.

Well, I am a raging Leo there’s no doubt about that.

I’m surmising that the installation will be a lot to look at and it’s not going to be a minimalist installation. It’s going to be elegant but there’s going to be a lot of energy there.

It’s going to be absolutely fantastic

I mean we’re bringing Ashley World to Texas! We’re literally bringing my studio works here directly to Texas. It’s going to be really, really exciting.

Do you have a book planned?

I have a book that’s already been published [February 2017]. It was the #1 New Artist release from Amazon for quite some time. It’s called, You Don’t Look Fat, You Look Crazy. We will have copies of the book available in Dallas.

Oh great! So a reader can get a book then, too.

Oh my God, they will be able to get a book, they will be able to get a beaded bag. We’re going to have these incredible candles. We’re going to have little side trays, we’re going to have limited-edition plates, we’re going to have so many incredible things.

I can’t wait to go and meet you!

I’m just really excited for this opportunity again. I love Texas and for me, Texas really represents the best parts of America. All you got to do is dream it and you can have it all, as big as you want it to be. And I think that’s very exciting.

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