Ashely Peifer speaks to us from her backyard studio about UFOs, muddy paint water, and Carl Jung.
Where are you from and where do you reside?
I was born in Massachusetts, spent middle school and high school in Texas, went to college in Indiana, and grad school in Minnesota. I now live in St. Paul with my husband, daughter, pup, and three cats.
What necessities do you require when making your art (radio, specific paintbrushes)?
I can make art nearly anywhere, but I’m happiest while making work in my backyard studio. There’s natural light, good music, minimal interruptions, and a cozy spot to read or spend time looking. I love the cheap ‘Princeton Snap!’ paintbrushes for acrylic paints. I’m horrible to my paintbrushes - they live in glasses of dirty water between paintings. The muddy colors help tone down the bright colors that I’m generally drawn to using.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
I’ll walk out to my studio early with a cup of coffee and my dog Fig. Then I spend some time sitting and looking at the in-progress pieces to determine next moves. I might flip through some artist books or sketch. Eventually, Fig will demand her walk and that will pull me away. I’ve learned that my very best ideas happen on walks, though! You might see me on the sidewalk hastily emailing myself ideas for paintings. Throughout the rest of the day, I stop in the studio multiple times to work. The best art-making days are when I creep back out there after dinner as my family is winding down. I love to sing loudly to cheesy 90s music and paint, soaking up the alone time.
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
From grad school in 2011 until 2020, my work was playful, buoyant, and unabashedly optimistic. My current body of work can be those things too, but it’s mostly concerned with existential questions that I’ve grappled with since I was a child. My shapes and imagery zoom in towards earthly miracles like seeds and unknown sea creatures, and out towards space and the unknowable. I play with these big and small questions in each painting as a way of constructing my own meaning. In the future, I see the scale of my work going larger since I now have the space. I imagine the subject matter will stay the same for awhile as these are things that I can’t actually get answers to.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
The most difficult part of being an artist is social media and having to market my art. I would love to be a hermit painting and not worry about sales or paying back student loans, but that’s not my reality. All of the eyes on my paintings can feel a little freaky, but I try to just roll with it.
My shapes and imagery zoom in towards earthly miracles like seeds and unknown sea creatures, and out towards space and the unknowable. I play with these big and small questions in each painting as a way of constructing my own meaning.
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?
Gardens, galaxies, UFOs, starfish, paths or wandering, the moon, seeds, looking.
Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
Is it weird to say my existential dread? Painting has turned into a playful coping mechanism and it gives me a lot of comfort.
Are you influenced by any author or non-visual artist? Are you influenced by any artist that does something completely different than you?
I’ve been really into Carl Jung’s paintings recently. They’re not what I usually gravitate towards, but he made art to work through his existential questions too. The Red Book is wild - I like to flip through it and marvel at his writing and paintings.
Is there any artwork on display in your home/studio? Whose is it?
I am very into collecting art and trading with artist friends. Each wall in my house is loaded with paintings by artists I admire! To name a few: Sophie Treppendahl, Natalie Baxter, Allison Reimus, Susan Carr, Brett Angel, Jessica Simorte, Kayla Plosz Antiel (my best friend!), Claire Whitehurst, Lucy Mink, Bruce Campbell, and so many more.
What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?
My mom bought me a little gem of a watercolor at an estate sale in Dallas. It turns out it’s by Fred Klein - Yves Klein’s dad!
What’s next for you?
2022 has been a year of big intentional changes in my life. I quit my job, scaled way back on teaching, and built the studio of my dreams in my backyard. My plan for the foreseeable future is to paint as much as possible because that’s what makes me happy.
Published December 7, 2022.