Ashley Gardner - The Painter
A Q&A with Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate and current Chicago artist, Ashley Gardner. Ashley was nominated by her husband for our Black History Month artist feature.
Define your art and tell us what inspires you as an artist?
In researching her family history, Ashley was able to make better sense of her present and gain clarity for her future. She works to piece together the missing, historical information that was lost and deliberately taken away.
Using self-reflection as a constant metaphorical theme throughout the work, Ashley highlights the people in her life that she has descended from and to whom she feels most connected.
Her parents, grandparents and spouse are a direct reflection of who she is from the past, in the present and who she will become in the future. She wants to honor the struggle and sacrifice of her ancestors while engaging in the dialogue of what it means to be an American family.
How long have you been Flossmoor?
Ashley grew up in Flossmoor and now lives in Chicago. She was inspired to pursue art as a career while at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
How do you share your art?
As an artist, what is your proudest contribution to the culture of black history?
Ashley, like many African Americans, has spent years researching her family’s history via interviews with elders, reviewing community records and submitting her DNA to Ancestry.com’s database. She is trying to put together the missing pieces of the puzzle as to where her family is from geographically, as well as how and when they arrived in the United States.
For most African Americans, this information is hard, if not impossible, to acquire due to the fact that most ancestors arrived considered only as property to be sold. Ashley wants to highlight the fact that, for some, the story of how one’s ancestors arrived in this country is very easy to trace and for others much more difficult. Nonetheless, it is important, for everyone to know who they are and where they come from so that they can have a stronger sense of identity and pride.
What has history taught you that could help someone else who is interested in pursuing the arts?
At first, Ashley didn’t think that art could be a career but she is passionate about showing young artists that they too, can pursue their dreams in art and earn a living. A few years ago she volunteered at a STEAM event in HF to show young women in the community how they too, can become professional artists.
Find more about Ashley and her work at www.ashleyjan.com.