We had the good fortune of connecting with Ash Dahlke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ash, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk-taking should happen naturally and frequently in the studio. When things happen through serendipity, new “problems” take place in your work and impel things forward either formally or conceptually. This type of risk-taking is so ingrained in my daily studio happenings that it happens innately. The risk of the work becoming stale is more of a concern than if I need to cover up any misstep with another layer of paint. This comfortability with risk-taking stemmed from the years I spent in the ceramics studio. With ceramics, it does not matter if you spend 20+ hours constructing a vessel, sometimes a small crack or a klutzy incident in the studio will destroy the piece forcing you to start all over again. If you don’t take the leap, you will be in the same place you were yesterday, and the day before, and months earlier. That is not to say that each move on a painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. happens without any sort of intention. Just as with risk-taking in life, thoughtful considerations should be made knowing that one misstep will not take down the entire artwork, your entire life, or career but will give you something new to learn from and respond to.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I get very excited about objects that have their own histories and the roles they played in the lives of people before I encountered them. These are objects found in thrift stores, estate sales, and occasionally on the side of the road. Quite often, these objects have a very direct record of their specific history through scuffs, cracks, tears, deterioration, etc. but for others, the stories are more abstract but can be placed in a time frame due to fads of material culture. These objects are also a signifier of larger issues regarding the climate and the degree to which objects are connected to us. Art making is never easy but the key is finding where your interest lies and what activities or subjects spark your curiosity to move you through the boring bits of the artmaking process. Growing up I loved spontaneously going to garage sales and estate sales on the weekend with my mother and being able to take a glimpse into people’s lives through the objects they had laid out in their front yard. These events allow me to get an intimate sense of the person or people who live/lived there and provides an avenue to create my own stories between objects and people. I was a nosey child and it appears that I’m still a nosey adult.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a recent transplant from Tucson to the beautiful border town of Douglas, AZ. I made the move over the summer and due to Covid, I’ve been slowly discovering and admiring the town and its complexities in small doses. Immediately upon arrival, I was captivated by the historic Grand Theatre and the work in the Border Arts Corridor Gallery situated in the front of the Grand. Another favorite spot of mine is hiking up D-Hill. From the top, there is a beautiful view of Douglas and its sister city across the border, Agua Prieta, SON. From the top of D- Hill, the quiet of the two cities from this elevated view stirs questions about the impact of the border wall cutting through these two communities.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In any creative field, no one gets to where they are without the support of family, friends, and a vibrant community of artists and creatives. I want to give a shout out to my compassionate friends and family who have helped me and pushed me through many years of problem solving, failures, and successes. I am grateful for those who ask the difficult questions, keep my ego in check, and light a fire in my art-making.