Ashely Peifer

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I am originally from Massachusetts but I live in Minneapolis with my husband, daughter, and two cats.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
I absolutely need podcasts or music. I’m currently on a John Coltrane kick. The other thing I need is muddy paint water because I use it to dull down bright colors or as its own neutral color.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
I have a toddler so I am only able to work while she is sleeping. I’ve learned to be really productive in two to three hour increments. Sometimes when I leave an unfinished painting that I’m really excited about, I’ll take a picture with my phone and stare at it critically since I can’t linger in my studio too long.
Do you feel your work has developed in new and unexpected ways because of this method? Does looking at artworks (especially your own) through a screen change you perspective or approach?
I definitely think my work has developed unexpectedly because I’m forced to slow the process down and consider different solutions or moves. Looking through a screen changes the scale significantly, so there’s bound to be a difference compared to my reaction standing in front of the actual painting.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
Waiting for paint to dry. I get so excited about paintings and want to keep working, but they turn muddy if I’m impatient.
How do you incorporate chance in your creative process?
I find that my best work happens when I hit a point where the painting is just so ugly and over-worked. However, I’m usually only a couple steps away from something that’s really interesting. I saw a video of Philip Guston where he talks about paintings that look like the elements are placed here, here, and here, but don’t interact in meaningful ways. I always think about that when I finish a painting without a struggle… then I cover it up and start fresh.
Guston was also famous for erasing and removing entire sides of his paintings when he got impatient - do you identify with that aspect of his process?
Yes, so much! I frequently cover up paintings that I once thought were finished and as a result, I’m able to create interesting textures and layers that peek through.
How do you choose your materials?
I’m drawn to materials that remind me of being a kid – colored pencils, crayons, puffy paint, glitter. I also love experimenting with new materials. My current favorite discovery is neocolors – they’re like crayons for grownups. The colors are so vivid and they’re fun on all kinds of surfaces.
I frequently cover up paintings that I once thought were finished and as a result, I’m able to create interesting textures and layers that peek through. — Ashely Peifer
Is there something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I really enjoy Bollywood movies.
Are you formally trained?
I have an MFA in painting from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and my mentor was Betsy Ruth Byers.
When did you begin your current practice?
It began the summer after I got my MFA and has evolved slowly over the last few years.
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
Monet’s water lilies when I was in third grade. We had to recreate them using tissue paper and Elmer’s glue and I was really into it. I decided I needed to be an artist.
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?
Candy, cookies, puddles, rainbows, landscapes, fruit slices, collections, pockets, friends, and treasures.
Are these literal images that come to mind, or are these more your personal classification and taxonomy for the forms that emerge in your work?
It’s the conflation of the occasional literal image while painting and a personal classification of images that happen organically through my process.
How do the different elements come together in your works?
The majority of my process for the collages is bursts of tinkering mixed with long periods of critically looking. They are done when they have a sense near-harmony that is a little off-kilter.
Have you always worked with collage?
I became interested in collage in undergrad but my work back then was made of old book pages, gesso, and graphite on a really small scale.
The majority of my process for the collages is bursts of tinkering mixed with long periods of critically looking. They are done when they have a sense near-harmony that is a little off-kilter. — Ashely Peifer
Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
Coloring with my toddler has been really influential recently. The colors she puts together and the line quality of her drawings are unexpected and fun.
What are your feelings on outsider art? Do you ever look to outsider artists for inspiration?
I am reading a lot about Indian tantric painting and the work of Hilma Af Klint. People who paint for spiritual reasons and are operating outside of the influence of trends or other painters really fascinate me.
Do you find that your location strongly influences the direction of your work? Where do you feel you create your strongest work?
I think so. My 1922 Craftsman paneled dining room was my studio for a couple years until this January, and I can already see an improvement in my colors now that I work in a bright and white-walled studio.
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
The idea of play - both in my subject matter and in the spontaneity of my process.
What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?
Hard to choose! I think either a beautiful little woodblock print from Japan from my dad or a giant painting of a field of cabbages by my mentor from undergrad.
Is there any artwork on display in your home? Whose is it?
I’m very interested in collecting art. I have paintings by great people like Kayla Plosz Antiel, Sarah Yoder, Jessica Simorte, Benjamin Cook, Bruce Campbell, Betsy Ruth Byers, Max Manning, Courtney Knight, Lindsey Ries, Maria Adams, Ashley Miller, Colin Marx, Ryan Hughes, Sheila Wagner, and more. I am intrigued by ceramics and recently bought pieces from Ben Fiess, Ginny Sims, and Louisa Podlich.
What’s next for you?
I want to take my work in a couple different directions: paintings on shaped panels and large-scale drawings on paper. I am also casually experimenting with working in 3D neon-painted dowels and little Sculpey objects.

rainbow road

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