Ashley Whitt is a photography-based artist whose work explores themes of duality within the self, psychological states, and mortality. She uses a variety of photographic techniques including digital processes, sculptural bookmaking, and traditional darkroom processes. Ashley is a Texas native and currently resides in Dallas.
Ashley graduated from Texas Woman's University where she earned her MFA in Studio Art (Photography) in 2012. She graduated from UT Arlington with a BFA in Studio Art (Photography) in 2009. From 2010 to 2018, Ashley taught photography courses at multiple universities and colleges in the DFW area and most recently served as a full-time Lecturer at Texas Christian University. Currently, she serves as the Director of Visual Resources at Southern Methodist University.
Recently Ashley’s creative research has been featured in several publications including The Hand Magazine, Light Leaked, and interviews in Fragmentary and Deep Red Press. Her work has been in multiple shows at galleries including Kirk Hopper Fine Art in Dallas (Texas), Box 13 Art Space in Houston (Texas), Photosynthesis Gallery (Connecticut), and Photoplace Gallery (Ver-mont). Her work has been shown locally, nationally, and internationally including Texas, Ver-mont, California, Connecticut, China, and India.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Mind Loop
2017 – present
Mind Loop explores the inability to escape certain memories or thoughts in one’s mind. Through self-portrait and still life photographs, large wall vinyl, GIFs, and sculptural handmade books, Whitt aims to interpret and make sense out of the absurd.
Inspired by Surrealism and Dadaism, Ashley Whitt seeks to subvert the viewer’s perception of reality and the rational. These images and moving stills aim to rationalize the irrational and turn the viewer’s perception on it’s head. Whitt invites the viewer to become immersed in an optical illusion. These illusions serve as metaphors for the absurdity we face in everyday life.
When and where did Mind Loop begin?
I began working on Mind Loop in 2017 as a response to personal experiences as well as current events in the country and the world. I began by thinking of ways that I could reflect on these subjects in an abstract way. Unlike some of my previous series, this was made from purely digital capture and some Photoshop magic.
Mind Loop explores the inability to escape certain memories or thoughts in one’s mind. Traumatic memories, recurring nightmares, and repetitive obsessive thoughts serve as inspiration for the series. Through self-portrait and still life photographs displayed as large wall vinyl, GIFs, and sculptural handmade books, Mind Loop aims to interpret and make sense out of the absurd and subvert the viewer’s perception of reality and the rational. These images and moving stills aim to rationalize the irrational and turn the viewer’s perception on its head. The viewer is immersed in optical illusions. These illusions serve as metaphors for the absurdity we face in everyday life.
While making this series, I draw inspiration from the artists of the Surrealist and Dada art movements during the early twentieth-century including Man Ray, Berenice Abbott, Claude Cahun, and Philippe Halsman. I am also inspired by movies; a few favorites are Blue Velvet, Forbidden Zone, A Clockwork Orange, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I have challenged myself to work with different materials and modes of image making. I am excited to work with moving images (GIFs) and looking forward to incorporating video into my creative practice during 2019.
Where do you see this project going?
Mind Loop is still in progress. I envision working on it for several years and developing three chapters of the series. My research has evolved since I began the series in 2017. I am currently interested in moving images, specifically the optical inventions of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century. During 2019, I will incorporate this research into my creative practice.
I have exhibited Mind Loop in several galleries (all in Texas), as a solo exhibition, a two-person exhibition, and several group exhibitions. In May 2018, I debuted Mind Loop as a solo exhibition at 500X Gallery in Dallas. In September 2018, I had a two-person show with Ross Faircloth at Tarleton State University. I exhibited sculptural books, GIFs on television screens, adhesive wall vinyl pieces, as well as traditionally framed prints.
The ideal outcome for sharing Mind Loop is to have the work published (regional/national/international publications), a solo show outside of Texas, and a solo show outside of the United States.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
I am incredibly lucky to have a day job that I love, and I get to be creative daily! I recently began working in the art history department at Southern Methodist University as the Director of Visual Resources. As the Director of Visual Resources, I have many roles. I work with the faculty, graduate students, and PhD students with their research projects. This includes obtaining images for publication, providing research resources, and copyright education. I also give tutorials and workshops on digital technologies including camera operation, computer software tutorials, and reproducing images for lectures/publications. I am also researching ways in which virtual reality and 3D processes (photogrammetry, ArcGIS, 3D models, 3D printing, etc.) can aid art historians with their research.
I constantly look for opportunities online and through galleries I know of in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I am an avid list maker. Every week I make a new list of galleries I want to submit proposals to, exhibition call for entries, publications, etc. I apply to over 200 shows and publications a year, so I make sure that I stay on top of this every week.
My personal definition of success is to continually set goals for myself and work toward those goals every day until completion. Out of the roughly 200 shows/publications a year, I usually get about 10-20 acceptance letters. I receive tons of rejection letters (and silence). But I have a mantra and a hashtag, and it’s this: #whittdontquit. I tell myself this mantra daily. It’s written on the wall in my studio. I have a list of goals for the year taped on my front door so that every day when I leave my apartment, I see those goals and remember what I am working toward. It’s not always easy to keep going, but successful people don’t let setbacks or failure stop them. Successful people never give up.
I also stay engaged with the arts community in Dallas. I’m currently a member and the president of 500X Gallery, the oldest artist run gallery in Texas. We are celebrating the 40th year of operation during our 2018-2019 season. This gallery has been passed down through generations of artists, and I am proud to be a part of it. Many artists who started out at 500X Gallery go on to be prolific artists with national and international acclaim. The legacy built at 500X Gallery is one that I am humbled to be a part of and I feel that this experience is helping me to navigate the art world, especially in the Dallas arts community.
What’s next for you?
2019 is going to be full of exhibitions! In February, I have a solo exhibition featuring new works from Mind Loop in Dallas at the Janette Kennedy Gallery. In March, Ross Faircloth, Lynné Bowman Cravens, and myself have a three-person show at Southern Methodist University titled The Illusion of Being in which each artist utilizes lens-based media to investigate notions of reality as perceived by the self.
In April, I will have another solo show in Dallas at 500X Gallery, the oldest artist-run gallery in Texas. I am working on all new work for that show (the second “chapter” of Mind Loop), and I am looking forward to unveiling it as the exhibition nears. In May, I have another solo exhibition of works from Mind Loop at Inner Space Gallery in Dallas and a two-person project space show at 500X with painter, Rachel MacKenna that I am really excited about! I have not worked on a two-person show with an artist outside of the photography realm, and I think it will be a new and interesting collaboration! In August of 2019, I’ll have another solo exhibition at Brookhaven College in Dallas. I’m really excited to stay busy in the studio making work and showing a lot in Dallas!