Ashley Williams

Charlottesville, VA | by April 10, 2010

As an Aunspaugh Fellow now finishing out the year and preparing to accept the invitation to study in one of several graduate programs around the country, Ashley Williams is one of the University of Virginia’s art department’s bright rising stars. She is particularly known for her fascinating, sensitive representations of evolving creatures- part animal, part plant and part mineral – which are not just visualizations in oil on mylar, but carry with them elaborate back stories into struggles for existence, the delicate balance such creatures must negotiate amid environmental encumbrances, and the questions concerning their future survival.
Williams analyzes the many complex aspects of her beasts’ defense and reproductive systems as well as the locations where they have reportedly been discovered after milenniums in concealment. Here is a little of her own story.

D.M. First, many may wonder, how does UVA’s Aunspaugh Fifth Year Fellowship work? Did you apply for it or was it awarded to you? It seems it has provided wonderful opportunities to develop and pursue your research into these rarified northern beasts.
A.W. The Aunspaugh Fellowship is a post bac program at UVA. Fellows work as art department assistants in return for studio space and a stipend. I applied for the award during my final year as an undergraduate. The experience is kind of like a residency. It is an opportunity to concentrate on making things for a year.
D.M. Who would you point to as some of the artists who have influenced you and the development of your work to date?
A.W. Recently, I’ve been more influenced by Gastropods and Cephalopods than artists, but I love Wangechi Mutu, William Kentridge and Andy Goldworthy. Some of my favorite artists are sculptors – I’ve been looking at a lot of Tara Donavan and Cai Guo Qiang’s work. I’m also influenced by seedpods, root structures, details of microscopic organisms and writers like Italo Calvino, Donald Bartheleme and Jorges Borges.
D.M. Before you discovered the curious hyperborean fauna that you have recently begun to document in your paintings what themes did you work with?
A.W. I have always been a figure painter of sorts. My earlier paintings were more focused on the human body. During my second year in college, I made a series of rather strange, Venus of Willendorf-type drawings that doubled as maps. I’m interested in the relationship between landscape and body. I’ve always been interested in weighty forms too: the struggle to contain, the body as container and the way our bodies might look if they really reflected all of the information that we ingest. The other theme that has carried through my work is a need for connection. I find that I ultimately have to be able to communicate with my painting. I like starting with an uncomfortable or unsettling shape that I form into something more articulate or understandable. I feel very protective of the things that I make. My paintings also protect me.

For more about Ashley Williams, please see

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  • Paul Netherton says:

    Your paintings are very different
    Do you still paint human body art?
    Reply if you will and thank you

  • Barbara Semonche says:

    I recall seeing your studio at the Univ. of Virginia a few years ago and was truly impressed with your artistry and your conceptual expression. I look forward to following your career. All good wishes,
    B. Semonche

  • Avon Towler says:

    Dear Ashley,
    Sue gave me your website. You are AMAZING.You had your
    talent before you came to earth. Sue is very proud of you
    and am I. Your creature is very interesting but sure is
    ugly. One of my favorite paintings that you did I saw
    at Sue’s a long time ago. It was a scene in a bubble.I knew then that you had unusual talent.
    You also have wonderful parents. I remember when your
    dad was born. If you are down Virginia Beach way. Come
    by and paint the ocean.
    Love from Grand Ma’s friend of sixty years.
    Avon Towler

  • Ashly says:

    We were told that the move to the University campus, hainvg been kept secret for so long, is now already too far advanced to stop. How can this be so? Has Commander Oldroyd already signed a tenancy agreement with the University? Surely this would not have been sensible, as he lacks planning permission for the move and it is clear that he has not even consulted properly with Members which I believe he has a duty to do. Whilst Commander Oldroyd might like to speed this, it is clearly not too late for him to consult the community and to start considering all the options which is what should have been done in the first place.Integrating the police with the community could have enormous benefits for both police and communities, as well as saving police time by basing them where they are needed. If it is true that the Belle Vue Road depot is no longer fit for purpose, then the funds from the sale of the land could fund really imaginative flagship solutions for our area which would be fit for purpose. It may well be that we need policing split on several sites, including as part of whatever is built on this site. But once the proceeds from the sale have gone into national coffers, this opportunity will be lost for ever. We all know what happened here in the Autumn when students and other young people were attacked. This is also one of the most burgled areas in the UK. There are very good grounds for making this area a special case. I am just a bit worried that the prime motivation for this move is financial, to save national police jobs. It would be sad if short term financial needs robbed this area of such an essential resource.

  • Felix says:

    An interesting meeintg last night. Thanks to all who attended. To my mind, a great indicator of the value in not just consulting but in communicating and sharing knowledge with the community.Perhaps those at the head of the room are now even more aware how much we welcome Police presence in our area and how much we care what happens to our local spaces and places in the future, and how we would like to be kept informed of plans that have such an impact on us.It seems that this was a cost cutting exercise, moving from a garage that was too big, too expensive to run and not fit for purpose, to smaller and more manageable premises on Woodhouse Lane. The alternative might have been to base every one out of Weetwood Police Station!We were told that the same number of PCSOs would operate in our area and Inspector O’Brien will be deploying his staff in exactly the same was as from Belle Vue. Inspector O’Brien invited members of the community to meet up with him and look around Belle Vue to see just why it no longer works as a base and to look at the Patrol Plan and even sit in on a briefing if interested.Much talk of Co-Locations in the future; maybe sharing space with other services at Royal Park School, or using Swarthmore as a drop in space for officers. Even considering integrating services with Police and Council Enforcement Officers . watch this space .That’s how I saw the meeintg anyway. What did others take away from it?

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