“I think I’m from outer space,” Ashley Longshore said as we sat together in her studio on Magazine Street. She was standing, actually, and painting a large portrait of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, surrounded by glitter, sequins, and jewels that she uses to bedazzle her work when the painting is complete. Sitting in Ashley’s studio that morning, I felt like I had been let into a secret world – a world that was a combination of tropical jungle, glitzy nightlife, and secret girl’s club. Three jewel-studded Veuve Clicquot bottles sat on the table beside my laptop.
Ashley has been compared to Andy Warhol for her focus on name brands and pop culture. Also like Warhol, she has a number of celebrity collectors and friends, including Blake Lively, Penelope Cruz, Ryan Reynolds, Katherine Heigl, Salma Hayek and Eli Manning. But Ashley’s star status alone doesn’t account for her magnetism. Through her art and persona, she encourages fans to embrace the raw, wacky, and over-the-top sides of themselves.
“I want to live in a world of laughter, color, sparkle and shine,” Ashley said. “Life is too short to not spend most of the day with a smile.” Above all, Ashley’s work encourages her fans not to take themselves too seriously. There’s never an excuse not to enjoy life.
Ashley may be best known for her portrait series “The Audreys,” in which she depicts Audrey Hepburn surrounded by jewels, tropical plants and animals, and vibrant shapes and colors. But she is also well known for her her “Trophy Series,” which brings to life the importance our culture places on money and brand names, and her “Fashion Icons” collection, featuring celebrities like Anna Wintour and Kate Moss in satirical situations.
Currently, Ashley is also working on a “Selfie Project.” Rather decry the selfie as narcissistic, she wants to celebrate the confidence exhibited when a person takes a photo that represents his or her true self. She has sourced selfies submitted by her fans on social media.
If you are looking for budget friendly ways to purchase Ashley’s work, check out her collector’s club Artgasm or her designs available through Anthropologie and Blake Lively’s website Preserve. For more insight into Ashley’s art and worldview, follow her on Instagram at @ashleylongshoreart.
20 Questions with Ashley Longshore
1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?
Marie Laveau. I think she must have been pretty cool to be a woman at that time and to be so daring. I also love thinking about all those women who lived here throughout history, wearing huge gowns and prancing around the French Quarter in garters and hoop skirts. That romantic side of New Orleans really appeals to me.
2. What first brought you to New Orleans?
A driving passion for wildness and creativity.
3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?
I don’t know how to define “best neighborhood.” Every part of New Orleans is a great part of New Orleans, because they all have their own culture and feel.
4. City Park or Audubon Park?
Depends on what mood I’m in. Do I want to ride a roller coaster or do I want to watch a Lululemon fashion show? It’s like asking if I like rosé Champagne or regular Champagne. I like them both!
5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans?
The best meals I eat in New Orleans are with other New Orleanians. It’s not just where I sit down, it’s the people that bring the fun. I can have an incredible meal eating a po-boy on the curb or I could ball out in a fancy restaurant. What makes the city special is the people who live here.
6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?
7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?
I love the soft shell crab po-boy at Jazz Fest, with extra pickles, extra hot sauce or a po-boy from Domilise’s right around the corner from my studio.
8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?
I love to take a carriage ride around the French Quarter. You can take a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, and they stop in front of Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar so you can get another cocktail. The carriage drivers always have lots of historical facts about the city — they can tell you about the vampires and pirates! I love eating at GW Fins. Afterward we’ll go to Rick’s Cabaret for a lap dance and bottle service — people come to New Orleans to party! By the time you get to Bourbon Street you need to already be drunk. Another great place to go is Lucy’s – it’s in a different part of the city.
9. Best spot to see live music?
Some of the best music you’ll hear in New Orleans will be someone performing on the street. Probably someone with a didgeridoo, or maybe a second line parade. I will jump out of the car and start dancing like a crazy person if I see a second line band.
10. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?
11. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?
I love ordering bottles of Veueve Cliquot and watching Jeremy Davenport at the Davenport Lounge. Lilette’s patio has a great wine and cocktail list. That’s a really, really fun spot to be. But the best place to get cocktails is Galatoire’s, if you really want to party!
12. Snowball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?
I go to New Orleans Original Daiquiris at St. Charles and Carrolton. The best part about getting a daiquiri is intentionally mis-pronouncing the name! One great thing about New Orleans is that you can come here and really revert back to your childlike sensibilities. You need to play and have fun when you’re here!
13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?
14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?
Buku Music + Art Project. I like to be on the pulse of what the underground youth are up to, and Buku is a cool place to do that. It wasn’t like a fraternity party. It was raw and edgy and cool. There was a nice breeze coming off the river, and it wasn’t too crowded. It was just fun!
15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?
I love all the parades that go in front of my studio on Magazine Street, and I ride in Iris. I really love all the parades, though! Mardi Gras is one of my favorite things about New Orleans — a bunch of people dressed up in costumes and celebrating life!
16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?
I love CeCe Shoe, and Box Paper Scissor is one of my absolute favorite stores of all time. They have Lacroix china, and magazines from all over the world. Shaun Smith Home on Magazine Street is another good one!
17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?
I like The Great American Alligator Museum on Magazine Street. They have all kinds of framed insects, butterflies, and bees from Africa. I like that stuff. Also, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art is a wonderful representation of the art we have in the south.
18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?
I love house parties. You go to someone’s big beautiful house in the Garden District. They have a bartender, and everyone’s screaming at the TV. When the game ends, someone pulls out an instrument and plays music for hours on a back porch.
19. Describe New Orleans in one word.
Phantasmagorical. [note: dictionary.com gives three definitions for this word. 1) having a fantastic or deceptive appearance, as something in a dream or created by the imagination. 2) having the appearance of an optical illusion, especially one produced by a magic lantern 3) changing or shifting, a scene made up by many elements.]
20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?
My neighbor across the street has these passionfruit vines that grow across the fence. I love that there is a tropical influence in this city: roses, birds of paradise, those huge tomato worms with horns, bunches of bananas, and orchids in the trees. If you look at New Orleans that way, it’s magical.