Ashley’s Words

In Interview on August 17, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Ashley Niven

Illustration by Jenyffer Maria

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? Um… I’m not very good at this, I’m sorry. Just that, you’re the only person that has to like what you’re doing. Because if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, then you know, it doesn’t matter. Even if you’re the only person that likes it or liked what your artwork was, you know, that’s all that should matter. Because it’s really just a way of coping with um, just kind of, being human. And you know, dealing with all the emotional things that we all pull through. So it’s the way I live [laughs]

Did it take you a while to learn that? Um, yes. And I’m still learning it. It’s not really something that I feel like I’ve really learned. You know, I’ve learned that it’s something that I need to feel but not necessarily something that I’ve got under control. Because you know that’s just the struggle and the push and pull being an artist.

Definitely, the first step is to realize it so you can try and apply it. Right.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given/told? Um… The best advice I’ve ever been given.. um, that imagery has been made for and ever and ever and that there’s nothing you will ever come up with that somebody has not already thought of and you basically just have to take work that you are inspired by and take it to that like, next level. Become involved with it and make it better.

Is that from one of your teachers here [Hillsborough Community College]? Yeah.

Which one? Tracy Reller. She’s basically a badass.

Basically a badass? [Laughs] Yeah. [Laughs]

What do you have to remind yourself of the most? Um, that it’s okay that I’m gonna be broke forever. [The loud kind of laugh that realizes the realization]

How or in what way does working on your art effect you? Ah, man it’s just– I feel like art is the effect of my life. It’s just like what I do. It’s how I look at things. I look at things like how can I– when I feel an emotion or I feel some way about something, I look at it and I think ‘how can I make someone feel how I’m feeling’ with imagery. So, I don’t know if that answers your question.


What’s an artistic goal you have? Um, I guess to just always, always be making art. because you know a lot of people- I don’t even necessarily consider myself an artist. I’m a student artist. you know, and just– I don’t remember the question anymore.

[Laughs] What’s an artistic goal you have? Yeah. I just always wanna keep making artwork. People become so stagnant and get wrapped up in whatever else is going on and I fee like art is what keeps me centered and sane and understanding myself. It helps me understand who I am. So, that’s a goal for me. [Laughs]

How about a goal outside of your art? Um, organization. [Laughs] Organization would be my goal. Yeah. I don’t know– just keeping all the fires burning within all of the people that I love. Where would I be without that? And I mean, make art.

Were you born in Tampa? I was.

So you’ve been here a while. How old are you? 24.

What’s something you appreciate about Tampa? I don’t know- I ‘ve traveled everyone. I’ve traveled a whole lot and spent a lot of time all over the United States and it’s just a cool place, you know? I wish that Tampa- I love what we’re doing right now. You go to UT– I’m here at HCC– I know you from Stephanie– I think that’s really cool that um, you know, you’re kind of getingi nvolved and trying ot udnerstand hwats goingon in Tampa. Everything is so- separateh ere. Um, but I kind of just went off into a tangent. I like Tampa because it’s just where I grew up I guess. We have so much like, historical, I don’t know it’s just a raw city. The people here are awesome, we have awesome music that comes through here– I’m a huge music [person]- real big on music. Um, I don’t know. It’s just where my heart is.

What do you think could make Tampa better? That’s basically what I was saying. I wish that– all these separate events that everybody does, I wish that people were more connected here. I wish that people would go to other people’s events. I feel like nobody wants to go out and see somebody’s artwork if they don’t know who they are, you know? I wish that Tampa was more engaged. I wish our young people were more engaged in what was happening, you know?

My next question was ‘what has made you stay in Tampa?’ but you kind of already answered it by saying Tampa was, you know– Really school, you know? And I’ve just, I’ve been here so long. I don’t really wanna leave. I lived in Orlando for a little while. I lived in New York when I was younger. I guess I would go back to New York, but I would always come back here. I mean we have the beach we have Ybor City. It’s awesome here.

What kind of degree are you working on right now? A fine arts degree.

Any you said you might transfer to UT? Did you already apply? No, not yet. I have this stupid math class that I’ve put off for forever and I’m horrible at math. So, um, I have ot just take a whole semester and just take one math class and then I can apply to UT.

Um, I going to be a senior and I still haven’t taken my math. Or science. Wow. Or your science? How are you a senior?

I, well, the way they do it, I guess no one’s been checking on me. But uh- that’s what happened to me.

Yeah- I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as you take it. But I mean, I took the math and I didn’t like it so I dropped it. Then I took another math, didn’t like it so I dropped that tried a science, dropped that. I’m gonna try liberal arts math again and I’m gonna try astronomy. Because I don’t understand science- I was talking to my friend Adam- who’s a Biology major or whatever– Chemistry is hard. You should do like, Marine Biology or something. [Laughs]

Yeah. [Laughs] I just wanted to get it over with. But whatever I read I couldn’t comprehend it. I was like- I’m not even gonna waste my time on this. I’ll spend my time on something else. I dropped this class three times. And just kind of loaded up with art classes. Just kind of kept my head in the air. I have almost enough credits to like, graduate from here but they’re not the right credits. I have way too many whatever; I’m like on the 10 year plan.

How old are you? 20.

Where’d you go to high school? Lemon Bay.

I’ve heard of that.

Yeah.. it’s, I mean- we’ve got a beach.. and a bowling alley. Wow.

That’s what there is. And a Taco Bell parking lot. Nice.

So is that where you guys went? In high school, yeah.

I actually remember- they still do sometimes. Like when I drive by there– We used to meet at McDonald’s in Northdale. I know they still meet there. Because I see them and I’m like, ‘oh my god I can’t believe they still do that.’

What do you plan on doing after you leave school? I don’t know. I wanna get my master’s. I might wanna go away and get my master’s but I’m not really sure because it’s going to take me a long time. I think eventually I’ll wanna teach. Um, you know, I mean it would be awesome to own like, some kind of art business– some kind of dream job. But, you know how that goes. I wanna teach college though.

Why college? Um,  just because high school kids don’t have their shit figured out. They don’t know what they want to make art about. I want people who have pain and suffering and something to like, you know, feel. Something to talk about.

Can you name 10 of your influences? They can be art related or not art related. Just shoot them out. [She ended up asking if she could “really think about it and email it” to me later. The next day a text message that included: Tara Mcpherson, Roy Lichtenstein, Haruki Murakali, Bret Easton Ellis, Andy Warhol, Jay-Z, Sabina Sciubba, Frank Stella, Matthew Barney, Lady Gaga, Henery Dager, and Kurt Vonnegut made it’s way into my inbox.]

  1. […] I first heard Tracy’s name over 3 years ago, when I was interviewing talented local artist, Ashley Niven, one of the first folks I ever spoke with under the name of Vessel. She called Tracy a badass. She […]

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