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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