Ashley Shellhause is a contemporary artist working in painting and drawing. Born as Ashley Hughes in Columbus, Ohio, she currently lives in Simi Valley, California. She received her BA from Otterbein College in 2008 with concentrations in painting and visual communications, and a minor in biology. In the spring of 2010 she completed her MFA in painting at Miami University. She was also a recipient of the 2010 Joan Mitchell MFA Grant. Since graduating she has been accepted into numerous exhibitions and has completed several mural and commission pieces.
I have always been interested in representing information visually. We have maps and graphs that show different types of information (elevation, population density, temperatures). For this series of work, I knew I wanted to try to show visually something nonvisual. I decided to combine a few of my favorite things: genetics, horses, and art. I selected the leopard complex, a series of five genes responsible for spotted (or appaloosa) horse coloring. Each gene is represented in the paintings by a different pattern, and each painting is accompanied by a drawing of what the horse would actually look like.
My inspirations for this show were all color or pattern based. I’m attracted to patterns, especially those that can be stretched or repeated to create a large field. The patterns I used here came from a wide variety of places. Two of them came from the Alhambra in Spain, one of them was inspired by the resurrection ferns I observed in the Florida Everglades, another came from a pine tree in the Sierra Nevadas in California, and the final pattern is from a contour map of the area around my parents’ house in California. I’m also attracted to colors and color combinations. Some colors I pulled from advertisements. I like how some colors stand out, and also how colors come and go in advertising and design. Other sources for my color palettes are sunsets, sunrises, and other paintings. Some sets of color have their own mood and sense of space. I like to recreate those and sometimes experiment with one of the colors.
I used acrylics and a variety of drawing materials for this body of work. I work with acrylics because of their flexibility. For the works included in this show I used them full strength with a brush, watered down and poured, with salt, with wax, with primed canvas, and with unprimed canvas. I used a variety of drawing materials depending on what I needed the drawing to illustrate. A few of the figures needed color, so I used colored pencils. The rest of the drawings were either done in pencil or ink.