Interview with Gandy Dancer 5.2 Featured Artist: Ashley Lester

Posted by Noah Mazer, GD Art Editor, and Poetry Reader

We are pleased to announce the selection of Ashley Lester as Featured Artist for issue 5.2 of Gandy Dance. Among the many works submitted, the Art reviewers for this issue were particularly struck by Lester’s submissions, which were the only ones that utilized collage as their medium. We were so impressed by Lester’s art, in fact, that we reached out and asked her to submit more pieces so that she could be included as Featured Artist. Here, Lester offers insight into what influences her artwork:

Gandy Dancer: Much of your printmaking is visually focused on physical components of the human body. How does the body inform your work?

Ashley Lester: I use the human body in almost all of my printmaking work. When I was a young teenager I spent quite a bit of time in the hospital. I lost a majority of my eyesight temporarily and I was unable to move for days at a time in my young teenage years. I was told that I either had a brain tumor or a rare neurological disease. It turned out that I was diagnosed with the rare neurological disease. I had to undergo a large number of tests, including a lot of needles in my spine. That experience has a lot of influence on my printmaking work and has caused me to become very interested in the human body, particularly in diseases and malfunctions.

GD: Both your work in printmaking and collage use a variety of background materials to frame the central images of each piece–what is your process like in sourcing these materials?

AL: The materials I use in my printmaking and collage work are mostly acquired from thrift stores, free bins, and garbages. I consider myself somewhat of a storyteller both visually and verbally, so I try to find words and images that I can use to narrate a story, but leave some room for the viewer to create their own narrative as well.

GD: How do you see the central images and background text interacting in a piece like “Je ne sais pas,” or in “The Dream Maker Man?

AL: I would say that those two pieces are good examples of a story I created with some elements of mystery that are purposefully left open for the viewer to create their own story.

GD: Are there particular artists or artistic movements who you look to as influences in your work?

AL: I am very influenced by Robert Rauschenberg and Ray Johnson.

GD: Are there themes or experiences you see your work as expressive of?

AL: Again, my experiences in and out of hospitals have greatly influenced my work.

GD: What is your artistic background?

AL: I was born and raised in Plattsburgh, New York. My mother used to draw a lot when I was a kid, so I grew up always drawing things for fun. My twin sister is a printmaker, and my younger sister is currently enrolled at Plattsburgh State with me as a painting and sculpture major. I’m graduating this semester with my BFA in sculpture and a compliment in printmaking. I was recently accepted to the University of South Florida for a Master’s degree in sculpture, and I will begin that program this August.

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