Ashley Sullivan grew up in northeast Ohio where the rust belt smokestacks and old industry give way to leaning barns and fields of soy. Depending on the season, or the temperament of the weather that day, the landscape outside her windows changed. Light ebbed and flowed against a field that boomed green and whispered in summer breezes and went all cracked brown and sharp when whorls of snow came tumbling out of the iron skies in winter. She chased cats through barns born a century before her and she watched how the dust lit up like fireworks when the sun slipped in through the slats and cracks of the room where cows used to mingle. There was beauty in everything, and she kept it all safe in the deepest pockets of her brain.
She’s lived in Chicago among swaying towers of metal and glass that poked at the sky. It was in Chicago that she learned to appreciate how dynamic a city can be; how the jagged lines and gentle curves of railroad trusses can spark memories of barn beams. Now, she’s boomeranged back home to Ohio to set down some roots in Cleveland Heights. Most days she can be found in her studio, chasing down moments and putting them onto canvas. She’s only just begun.
“Ashley Sullivan’s work is incredibly stimulating and interesting.,” enthused Mary Neff Stewart, Senior Wall Art Designer for John-Richard. “Her use of movement and color result in an industrial feel while remaining versatile enough for the most sophisticated spaces.”
We had a chance to ask Ashley about her background and what inspires her art.
You grew up in the country among fields and barns. How did the landscape effect or inspire you?
There are quiet, still, and restful places out in the country. Which is not to say the country is boring or dull. I love the repetition of lines in a field — freshly seeded rows of turned earth, or corn stalk bases that remain after the fall harvest. There is texture and pattern in a dense arrangement when viewed up close, and yet taking in the field as a whole, there is a calming uniformity. With more open space, you can take in a wider expanse of a field or sky. I love the feeling of being a part of and connected to nature, but also feeling a very small creature in a vast space.
Conversely, in the city of Chicago, did you find it infused you with a different type of artistic energy?
A city certainly has life and energy. At times I am completely starry-eyed enchanted, but can also find myself overwhelmed by the inexhaustibleness of a city. I would love to bottle the vibrancy and spark of a city lit up at night, but I don’t think it has a long shelf life. Part of what makes a city so appealing to me is its constantly changing nature. You could paint a city street forever and never paint it the same way twice.
Do you have any favorite color palettes?
I am always drawn to a layered neutral palette, pulling from both warm and cool tones to give depth and interest to the calm areas of a canvas. For the focal point I bring in more saturated neutrals and bolder colors. I’ll use various colors from the same color family — instead of the accent color being only “red”, I will use orange, rust, pink, cranberry, salmon, coral, burgundy, and so on.
Are there artists, past or present, whom you particularly admire?
Narrowed down to top ten: Alphonse Mucha, George Hendrik Breitner, Franz Kline, Sol LeWitt, Eva Hess, Gerhard Richter, Nick Cave, Kai Samuels-Davis, Jeremy Mann, Robert Szot.
When did you start producing art with John-Richard?
November of 2016.
What new art are you working on right now?
I came home from a vacation on Lake Erie with a collection of stones (agate, quartz, slate, etc.) and plan to do a series of paintings using their color palettes.