Ashley Whitt is a fine art photographer whose work deals with themes of duality within the self, psychological states, and mortality. She uses a variety of photographic techniques including dass transfers, digital manipulation in Photoshop, sculptural bookmaking, and traditional darkroom processes. She graduated from Texas Woman's University where she earned her MFA in Photography in 2012. She graduated from UT Arlington with a BFA in Photography in 2009. Ashley currently serves as a Full-Time Lecturer at Texas Christian University.Ashley is a Texas native and currently resides in Dallas.
DRP: Hello Ashley, tell us where you are from and what you do?
AW: I grew up in Mesquite, Texas and I currently live in Dallas. I graduated from Texas Woman's University where I earned an MFA in Photography in 2012, and I graduated from UT Arlington with a BFA in Photography in 2009. Currently, I serve as a full-time Lecturer at Texas Christian University. I am a photography based artist, and my work deals with themes of duality within the self, psychological states, and mortality. I use a variety of photographic techniques including dass transfers, digital manipulation in Photoshop, sculptural bookmaking, and traditional darkroom processes. Recently I have started to experiment with moving images (GIFs).
DRP: How would you say you develop conceptual photographic projects and then shoot them? Do you tend to work under strict guidelines or more fluidly as it comes?
AW: I begin each project in the same way. I start with the idea and begin researching for more information that could inspire the series. I read books and essays, watch movies, and scout out locations and/or props for my images. I then create experiments using a few different processes. I allow myself to experiment for a certain period of time, and I evaluate what is working and what isn't. From there, I decide on the style and processes that best illustrate the idea I am working through, and I begin creating the final pieces. I work in my studio which is a spare bedroom in my apartment. Typically I create still life photographs on a table top, and self portraits are created in the corner of my bedroom using hot lights and reflectors. I then use Photoshop to distort or alter the images.
The final pieces are photographs displayed in frames or as large wall vinyl, handmade sculptural artist books, and animated GIFs displayed on TV screens. I would say that my artist practice is fluid in a way because I allow myself to experiment in the beginning, but I am structured in my studio practice (working several hours everyday) and in the output of the final series.
DRP: This particular series, Mind Loop, carries some surrealist qualities that I would say are historic to Photography. What was your inspiration for creating this work? Did you take from the any historical figures in the photographic community?
AW: Mind Loop is inspired by the inability to escape certain memories or thoughts in one’s mind. Through self-portrait and still life photographs displayed as large wall vinyl, GIFs, and sculptural handmade books, my goal is to interpret and make sense out of the absurd. Inspired by Surrealism and Dadaism, Mind Loop seeks to subvert the viewer’s perception of reality and the rational. These images and moving stills aim to rationalize the irrational and turn the viewer’s perception on its head. The images invite the viewer to become immersed in an optical illusion. These illusions serve as metaphors for the absurdity we face in everyday life. I am inspired by historical and contemporary artists. A few who inspire this particular series: Berenice Abbott, Bridget Riley, MC Escher, Philippe Halsman, and Lucas Blalock. I draw inspiration from artists who warp our perception of reality and construct worlds that are fabricated or contrived.
DRP: You’ve said that these work ‘’...serve as metaphors for the absurdity we face in everyday life.’' What is the absurdity your work is responding to?
AW: For the past year, I have researched absurdism and nihilism and incorporate that research into my own work. I am drawn to the works of Albert Camus, specifically a short essay called The Myth of Sisyphus. In the essay, Camus argues that life is essentially meaningless, although humans continue to try to impose order on existence and to look for answers to unanswerable questions. Camus discusses the Greek legend of Sisyphus, who is condemned by the gods for eternity to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again once he got it to the top. This act is used as a metaphor for the individual’s constant struggle against the essential absurdity of life. According to Camus, the first step an individual must take is to accept the fact of this absurdity. Camus also states that with the acceptance of the struggle against defeat, the individual gains definition and identity.
The absurdity I am referring to within my work is the everyday tasks and minutia that become meaningless when you look at them too closely: the daily commute to and from work, watching the same news stories on television over and over, social gatherings where everyone is talking about nothing, etc.
DRP: Do you think the absurdity creates chaos?
AW: The absurdity I respond to creates both order and chaos within the series. I organize the irrational objects I photograph into rational patterns or structured compositions.
RP: Do you have any exhibitions or upcoming projects?
AW: Currently my solo exhibition, Mind Loop, is on view through June 3rd at 500X Gallery in Dallas, Texas. I also have several solo exhibitions coming up! From August 11 through October 6th, There’s No Way Out: Selected Works from An Ordered Chaos will be on view at Box 13 Art Space in Houston, Texas. I also have a solo exhibition coming up in December at the Mesquite Arts Center in Mesquite, Texas (which is where I grew up). I will continue to work on my series Mind Loop over the summer and look forward to showing some new work at 500X Gallery in the 2018-2019 Members Show (opening in late August, visit www.500x.org for the exhibition dates and more details).
RP: Thank you Ashley!
AW: Thank you so much for the opportunity to discuss and show my work on Deep Red Press! I appreciate it!