So the studio is my own creation. At first it was just going to be my art studio. I was going to create things and get it really, really messy and not really care about it. Because I ruin all the carpet wherever I live essentially.
Ashton is a La Crosse area local, whose oil pastel art you may have seen in the La Crosse County building, or hanging at the Heider Center, or you might have taken a stroll down the Alley of Murals downtown and spied one of her creations. She has played an active role in the local art community and decided to take it one step further, opening her private studio into a public art gallery.
Artist, Ashton Hall
Interviewer: Today we are meeting with Ashton Hall. She’s an artist who has a gallery in the old La Crosse Footwear building. That building is pretty iconic in La Crosse. In the 1930’s more people worked there, than any other business in the City of La Crosse. It’s huge. A bit of a labyrinth, there’s a lot going on. You’ll find a restaurant, Pearl Street Brewery, there’s apartments here. When you come in, come in by the doors by Boot Hill Pub and you’ll find a staircase off to your left, take that on up to the 2nd floor and follow the signs. They’ll take you to Ashton. Walk me through what you have here and tell me a bit about the studio.
Ashton: So the studio is my own creation. At first it was just going to be my art studio. I was going to create things and get it really, really messy and not really care about it. Because I ruin all the carpet wherever I live essentially.
Interviewer: So the hardwood floors here are good for you.
Ashton: Very, very good. The minute I walked in, I was like yeah, this is it.
Interviewer: There is a lot of light in here, I can see how that would be useful for an artist too.
Ashton: This is a gallery, this is not just a studio. This is definitely more of a gallery than a studio.
Interviewer: So taking it from, being a studio and moving it into a gallery. How did that go for you? Were you pleased?
Ashton: Yeah, at first I was nervous because I wasn’t sure what times I should make the open hours be. So essentially I would just be here painting and drawing, and people can just come in and look at what I’m making. And I thought it was really crucial to bring the public in this space and have open hours, because why not invite them in to see what you’re creating, what you’re doing. And I always thought it was cool, because I’ve been to Minneapolis and Milwaukee on art crawls, and walking through an artists space during open hours is just so fun, because you can see what they’re making while they’re there.
Interviewer: I see you have a lot of charcoal you’re working on?
Ashton: These are oil pastels. I’m teaching a class next Wednesday at the Bangor Library. charcoal Trying to figure out what I can teach within a 2-hour period is really essential. Like this has a lot of detail so I would time myself, like how long does this take me. Can I teach this to several people who might not be so well-versed. But I really like making different works in series, so I always try to challenge myself by making themed exhibits and that’s what most of the gallery is, a theme exhibit. So like on this wall I made a piece based on an artist, musician, or arts advocate in town. I had them tell me what their favorite color was, what is their eye color, what is their shirt color, and was their home color. And they answered and then I was forced to make an abstract piece based on the colors they gave me.
Interviewer: So each piece represents a different person? That is really interesting.
Ashton: Over 35 pieces that were in the county building downtown. But all of these are repurposed kitchen doors. So my dad is a construction worker and he had all these doors, he’s like we should make these into paintings. And I thought that was a great idea. I like them because they are all different sizes and that makes them even more individual for the person that I interviewed.
Interviewer: We have Cheech Hall, we have Ryan Solberg, are there other local artists that you did paintings of that we would recognize their names?
Ashton: Patricia Hall and Michael Glen he does a lot of caricatures at the park. Mike Martino and Phyllis Martinez they’re married, so they mirror.
Interviewer: And you had this up at the Heider Center too, so they were displayed in a few places, or?
Ashton: This one was the county building and this one is the start of the Heider Center, all around this triangle.
Interviewer: And the heider center was Pink, Purple and Periwinkle, a love affair. So tell me a little bit about that.
Ashton: Growing up I was in a small town, the small town of Bangor where I’m teaching that class. And I hated pink, hated purple, I hated being put in a box. And I just liked different things and ever since I was little, up until my early twenties I would not wear purple, I wouldn’t wear anything pink, periwinkle anything girly.
Interviewer: You didn’t want to be defined.
Ashton: As a female, you don’t want to be defined. You’re this and you have to wear this. So this whole series is kind of dedicated to those colors and redefining what they mean to me. I don’t see them as femine. I see them as bright and uplifting now. Versus before I saw them as feminine. So I kind of redefined their meaning and now I really love them. At first it was hard because how am I going to paint with bubblegum pink. It was really difficult. I should do something abstract like weird linear lines and boxes, similar to the county building exhibit. Because I’ve never done something like this before. It’s very fobistic and I thought, why not.
Interviewer: Let’s talk a little bit about the building, you were telling me that it’s the old La Crosse Footwear building and you have the original floors here, it used to be a dance studio.
Ashton: They tried to keep all the original flooring from creating the rubber boots and the soles so you’ll see a bunch of nicks, burnt marks, tap dancing marks from people who rented this out previously. It’s like a burnt orange, rusty color and it very much echoes a gallery space. That’s why when I walked in, oh this is perfect. Because you kind of need neutral colors on the wall when you have a gallery space. Neutral colors work best and it kind of really showcases the art. But I know so many artists in this area and in Minnesota who wanted to be part of this last exhibit called the Five Love Languages. And each artist had to pick a love language and represent that in their art. So physical touch, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, they had to pick how do they love, how do they show their love. And then make a piece about it. There are three different themes going on in the same space. Because it’s so big I just wanted to invite the community in and give them a chance to sell their work and just have it be seen and interact with people cause that’s big for an artist’s confidence. An artist can gain a lot of confidence talking to people about their art.
Interviewer: So do you have times, when not just the gallery’s open, but you’ll have other artists here that can talk to people when they come? Do you have regular shows like that?
Ashton: yeah so I had two previous shows that were themed, and I have one coming up that is called Mysticism and Tarot. I have four artists that are all making cards decks and so am I. So people will be able to come to buy prints of those archetypal works. Like the fool, the empress, things like that. But everyone will have their own take on it.
Interviewer: And where can people find out more about you?