Works on LPP
★ MEET N‘ GREET ★
Jess Wheaton interviews Ashley Alexander of Im Smitten.
1. Hi Ashley, I know you live in Chicago, but I also saw you're from Saudi Arabia. Can you tell us more about what happened in between and how this might have informed your art and/or your person? That Shirley Temple movie The Little Princess about a British girl raised in India just came to mind, probably because I have no solid references for what childhood (or life) is really like in that part of the world.
Thats funny, I love that movie. Thats a really great and insightful question and not really something I've ever thought about, but there is something that is definitely other-worldly and strange about being an ex-pat. I always felt slighty outside looking in and even though I do consider Saudi to be my childhood home, I would never really fit in there. I had the same feeling when we re-emigrated back to the US. I felt like an outsider, like I did not fit in. I could see how these themes would manifest themselves in my art: the animal heads, the masks, things being mostly normal, but slightly off... I loved Saudi- I felt like an anomolly, exotic, special. We traveled a lot and I was such a voyer- I loved people watching, seeing other cultures. People would come up and touch our blonde hair. The move back to the US was a definite shock. After I finished college, I moved back to the Middle East and then to Budapest. I eventually wanted to settle somewhere and feel like I fit in and belonged. I was visiting Chicago and felt like it would be a good place to settle.
2. Your site gives some info about your motivation for making what you do now. On it you talk about the mystery of childhood, and the sense that anything is possible, especially talking animals that want to be friends. But then "The older you get, though, the more it seems that all of that magic has gone off, somewhere else maybe." What happened for this sad realization to lead you to make images to put on cards, handbags, and t-shirts?
I guess I dont think of this realization as necessarily sad. I think more that I want to bring this magic back. I feel that I look around as an adult and see that adults read adult books- non-fiction, newspapers, magazines, self-help and how-to. We dont have many books with images or fantasy and I feel like that is a shame. I love magic realism. I just felt like I didn't like that art and imaginary things seemed removed- art exists in a gallery or museum- away from the everyday, not accessible to people who dont exist in that world and thats why I felt like I wanted to insert things that were fantastical or strange into everyday objects.
3. How much of your life is Im Smitten, and do you have other projects? What's a typical day for you like? Do you feel you've helped some magic return to your life?
I'm smitten is a pretty big part of my life. Things have definitely slowed down, though over the past year. My mother died last year after a long illness and it definitely changed a lot of my ways of looking at things. I think some of the naivete and childlike-ness have disappeared- at least temporarily. I feel like I had to grow up very quickly. I have gone back to teaching to pay the bills. But I always have a bunch of mental projects going on- illustrations, photo-projects, etc. I try to remember to be thankful of how lucky I am to be able to work as an artist, live a life that I have constructed. I think I feel that more and more. As the dust that stirred up last year settles I feel lighter and happier and I feel like that reflects in my work.
Thanks Ashley for being a part of Little Paper Press.
When people are children, they are surrounded by animals. Children's books are filled with animals as the main characters. Playrooms are full of toy animal friends. Then somewhere in childhood animals play less and less of a role in children's lives. There really aren't many stories for adults with animals as the main characters. And when a story or movie does center around an animal, it isn't the same sort that exist in children's books. They don't go to school or wear clothes. All of the magic has gone. I was really sad when I realized this and so I wanted to bring them back. The resulting artwork is my attempt to infuse everyday situations with animals that have retained some of the enchanted characteristics of story book animals. I took my work from being in frames on the wall and instead made it into cards, shirts, etc. I love the idea of one of my drawings traveling through the mail across the country or walking around the city on a shirt. That way everyone has access to it and hopefully adds something a little bit pretty and strange to their day. im smitten