Ashely Peifer received her MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She recently had a solo show at the Burnet Gallery in Minneapolis and her work has been featured in New American Paintings (#111), Forget Good Magazine (#14), Buy Some Damn Art, and Mist Gallery, as well as numerous art blogs and digital magazines. Ashely lives and works in Minneapolis with her husband and daughter.
My paintings tread the line between what is real and what is nostalgia. I am fascinated by nostalgia’s ability to over-beautify, embellish, or even transfigure a memory. I find that my memories are very fractured and fleeting. The more I try to remember a moment, the less detail I can achieve. Recalling my childhood while painting allows me to create playful and indulgent imagery with materials such as glitter, puffy paint, and collage. Memories of neon bright Lisa Frank paraphernalia, rock collecting and sugary sweets are reduced down to their emotional essence and repeated throughout my paintings and collages.
Q&A with Ashely Peifer
by Emily Burns
Can you give us some insight into your process? How do you begin and how do you create your compositions? Does drawing play a part in your work?
I start laying down color without a plan, just reacting to each layer. The compositions are formed through this loose process but I also incorporate shapes and patterns that I use over and over.
You mention Lisa Frank in your statement—did your experiences with Lisa Frank affect your current aesthetic?
I loved Lisa Frank as a child like a lot of girls in the late 80s and early 90s and I feel so nostalgic when I see old images of the brand. My work for the first couple of years out of grad school was really influenced by the color, playfulness, and glitteriness found in Lisa Frank illustrations. I’ve been slowly moving away from this aesthetic as I’m currently reaching for more quiet (in comparison) color relationships and less glitter.
What began your interest in nostalgia as a theme in your work?
I would experience nostalgia when looking at 80s/90s toys and games and it was this feeling that I wanted to capture in a painting. This longing for a time when everything was about play.
What is your relationship with color?
I have a pretty intuitive relationship with color. I lay down a color and then react to it—it’s never a big planned thing. I enjoy finding colors that sing when they are paired together, and I also like to tone a bright composition down with muddy colors or a pucey-pink.
What is a typical day like for you?
I stay home with my toddler, so we go on long walks and color, paint, and play together. When she is napping or down for the night, I’m able to go to my studio in the basement and paint or stare critically at in progress pieces.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you have overcome as an artist so far in your career
Renegotiating my painting time with being a mom. I’ve had to rework my whole process and it’s taken a while, but I’m in a good place. My current process is working well with two to three hour bursts of effort a couple times a day.
Can you describe your studio space? What are your most important workspace essentials?
My husband and dad built a white-walled room for me in the basement. We lit it so nicely with a lot of daylight bulbs and I am so happy when I’m in there working. My biggest essentials are good music (currently Alabama Shakes, John Coltrane, and Sufjan Stevens), piles of mediums to choose from, and lots of blank panels. I like to work in batches of paintings, so I can tinker with something while others are drying.
Has there ever been a book/essay/poem/film/etc that totally changed or influenced you? What are you reading right now?
Yes! I first read Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day” as a first year grad student, and I think of it often. The line “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?“ is so powerful. It helps me feel a little better about my enormous student loans (ha).
Books that I’m in the middle of right now: The Heroine Paint: After Frankenthaler, Felicity by Mary Oliver, Daybook: The Journal of an Artist by Anne Truitt, and The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.
What are some of the artists that you look at feel that your work is in dialogue with?
I’m currently really enamored with the work of Hilma af Klint, Amy Sillman, Lois Dodd, Allison Miller, Betty Woodman, and Thomas Nozkowski though I’m not sure my work is in dialogue with each of them.
On your website, you call a group of work called Treats. Can you talk a bit about this series and what makes them different from the other bodies of work?
It started as a group of thirty 6”x6” paintings for a show in Virginia but I had so much fun working on a small scale that I made dozens more. They’re snack-sized colorful and glittery little guys, so “treats” seemed appropriate.
Do you have any advice for recent grads that are looking for teaching jobs, transitioning out of graduate school, or looking to begin their career as studio artists?
I think the main thing is to keep working, no matter what. Set up a studio in your dining room if you have to (I worked in mine for a year!). Just keep the momentum going.
As an artist, what is your relationship with social media? Do you have a favorite or least-favorite platform?
As an introvert, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Instagram is my favorite, though. It’s fun to connect with other artists and get peeks into their studios and processes. Facebook is my least favorite as it’s just so over-saturated and hard to control all of the information that you’re seeing.
Can you tell us a bit about your exhibition, Sugar Sugar?
Sugar Sugar was a solo show at the Burnet Gallery in downtown Minneapolis in the summer of 2015. I showed work that had been created as a new mom, and I was so proud that I put my baby in a sling and kept painting. It was a hard adjustment, but it worked out fine.
Do you have any exciting news or shows coming up?
I have a collage at the Affordable Art Fair in NYC with Uprise Art at the end of this month, work in a group show at James May Gallery in Wisconsin this August, and a pending two person show in Minneapolis next spring.
Thanks so much for sharing your work and talking with us!
To find out more about Ashely and her work, check out her website.