Artist Talk: Ash Lester, 2020 MFA

Ash Lester // Plattsburgh, New York
B. F. A. (2017) State University of New York, Plattsburgh

Meet Ashley Lester, better known as Ash.  Her artwork investigates issues such as class, isolation, and stereotypes through reflections on personal experiences growing up in rural America, specifically in a settlement called Wiggletown. Wiggletown is eerily absent from any map, yet Wiggletown and places like it comprise an archipelago of isolated communities, often lacking capital but rich in rural ingenuity and the need to invent. Lester states, “Growing up in rural America, money was always scarce. Therefore, expensive objects were often hand-built. If you needed a table for a backyard party, you made one with a warped piece of plywood on top of cinder blocks. If there was no plywood, you took the door off the house. If there were no cinder blocks, you borrowed some stacks of tires from the neighbor. Rural ingenuity and the need to invent is a major thread of my work.”

For the exhibition Battin’ A Hundred, Lester created a site-specific, immersive installation that looks like a garage, a space (as Lester explains) in rural America where people gather, and most main events occur. Like Joseph Beuys, whose work was grounded in transformation and the alchemy of turning one everyday object into another, Lester transforms the rural garage into a sculpture called Tit Splits and Night Crawlers. Viewers enter the installation where banal objects, such as bleach jugs, are transformed into inventive and usable watering cans, and then placed as if icons for viewing and contemplation. Inspired by the installations of Alex Da Corte (one of Lester’s favorite artists), Tit Splits and Night Crawlers presents objects and materials detached from their original function and gives them new potential, both symbolically and formally. Unlike Da Corte, who has roots in a technicolor version of the pop-art tradition, Lester engages with the mythology, tropes, stereotypes, and materials of rural America filtered through personal memory and collective history.

Some fun facts about Ash Lester: In 2015 Ash Lester earned the SMAW Structural Steel Welding Certification from the American Welding Society. She is dedicated to being of service to and representing underprivileged and rural communities, and shares her home with Gladys, a retired racing greyhound.

Check out Ash Lester on Instagram @ashleylestersculpture!

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