Ashley Trabue is an artist in Nashville, TN with an ethos of self love, compassion and female empowerment. Ashley’s artwork is a gentle and honest expression of the human body in all its forms. Personally, she exudes warmth, sincerity and is a passionate conversationalist, making everyone around her feel heard and welcomed.
Her most recent endeavor, the Take Back Your Body Project is a celebration of self-care, art therapy and complete body acceptance. Participants are invited to send Ashley a photo of themselves and she will send back her artistic interpretation of the photograph, extracting beauty everywhere she sees it. Take part in the experiment.
I caught up with Ashley to discuss inspiration, life during quarantine and how artists and non-artists alike can find comfort in being creative. I found her to be a nurturing voice of reason and comfort during an uncertain time.
How did you become an artist?
This is a cheesy take but I think everyone has an artist within them.
I’ve been incredibly privileged to have been in the arts my whole life — paint, dance, photography, mixed-media, textiles — I had so much exposure. I just didn’t ever think it could be a viable career choice until I was in my mid-twenties. There’s this collective idea in our culture of the starving, unstable artist archetype, and it took me a while to deconstruct those unconscious assumptions and realize that my inner-artist didn’t want to just come out and play. She wanted to come out and lead.
Who has influenced your work and way of thinking?
I’ve always been a reader and I think that, more than anything else, has shaped my thinking.
My mom worked at the elementary school I attended as a child, so every day after school I’d hang out in the library while I waited for her. I spent at least one semester working through the young reader biographies plucking out all the ones with strong female leads. Susan B. Anthony. Sojourner Truth. Marie Curie. Amelia Earhart. As I got older, I became a lover of poetry. Gwendolyn Brooks. E.E. Cummings. Sylvia Plath. Poets could truth-tell in a way I had never experienced. As a child of the Southern Baptist church, the radical honesty of poetry brought me so much excitement.
I’ve also always been a writer — whether journaling or letter-writing or poetry, words have long guided me to reconciliation. I think I see that in my work with womxn. I often encourage them to use the written word in connecting to self.
What pushed you to become a more outspoken advocate for self love and feminism?
As far back as I can remember my body has felt like a burden. I grew up hating it. I remember talking about dieting with my best friend on the phone in second grade. I remember asking my mom how to make my calves smaller. I loathed my legs. My stomach. My chin and cheeks. Unsurprisingly this trajectory resulted in a late-adolescence eating disorder.
My eating disorder was a lot easier to heal from than the mindset behind it. It took about five years to normalize eating but learning how to reconnect with my body in a way that felt loving and strong? That took a lot longer.
As I realigned to my truth and cultivated a sense of connection and presence in my body, I felt more connected to myself, I began to extend more understanding and compassion toward myself. And the less I cared about my perceived imperfections. At some point in the growth, sharing it, sharing the art, sharing my writing, became a natural next step.
I am a highly-sensitive introvert. Sharing my work was so terrifying, I first shared under a pseudonym. It’s natural momentum and the feedback I receive from womxn all over in regards to my work is what has allowed the platform to naturally build.
Is boredom the friend or enemy of creativity?
This has two answers depending on your definition of boredom.
I think true boredom is to creativity what apathy is to love. They’re at opposite ends of the spectrum. Boredom as an emotion is disengagement, and by definition to be creative is to engage. Often when we feel this sense of disengagement and apathy, it means our energetic and creative resources have been depleted and need to be restored. It’s time to refill the well. Follow what delights you. Where you can delight your inner-child, you can also delight your inner-artist.
Now, boredom in the “nothing to do” sense can be a great friend to creativity. Stillness is an invitation to pay attention, and when we pay attention, we’re gifted with delight. Imagery. The light dancing across the kitchen floor. The birdsong that sounds like a cat. The way the coffee pours in a clean stream. Creativity is the language of images. If we pay attention in these moments of stillness, we can collect them. Allow them to sprout within us.
What are your suggestions for people who are stuck at home to stay creative?
Make a list of everything you loved to do as a child. Play in mud. Color for fun. Watch cartoons. Go barefoot. Make another list of things you profess to love but never make time to do. Kayak. Read a mystery novel. Paint the walls. These two lists are your guide posts. Choose an item off the list every week. Just because. Take notice of how you feel afterward.
Creativity is the act of going into the unknown and emerging with delight. Chase delight.
What are you most looking forward to when life goes back to ‘normal’?
I look forward to us all emerging from quarantine with more awareness, compassion, and accountability to each other as humans; and clarity around what our particular role is in dismantling white supremacy. I look forward to seeing platforms continue to center and amplify black voices and stories. I look forward to seeing how we extend that awareness into how we vote, how we engage in local politics, and how we shop. I am also very excited to experience art and community in person again.
Current work available for purchase includes figure drawings, abstract color-driven paintings and black and white prints. Browse her portfolio or suggest a commission.
Follow Ashley on Instagram – @ashleytrabue