How do you situate your work in the context of the current moment?
I think of what pleasure activist Adrienne Maree Brown says, “I love the idea of shifting from ‘mile-wide inch-deep’ movements to ‘inch-wide mile-deep’ movements that schism the existing paradigm.” My creative practice is a container for me to cultivate an inch-wide, mile-deep connection to myself. And then from that place of love and knowing, I can connect more deeply and authentically with others.
My artwork is a direct exploration of my emotional and sensory processing, my spiritual practice, my mental health journey, my body intelligence—it is the sum of all the ways I nurture and love myself. A more present and empathetic world begins with a more present and empathetic self. This is the world I work to create.
What projects are you currently working on and how is social distancing affecting your art practice?
I’m currently focusing on two series: one abstract and one figurative. The abstract one, called “portals,” explores emotional intelligence and triggers through intuitive acrylic paintings and relief prints. Like a portal, a trigger is a point-of-entry both to a sore spot and to a place of greater healing/integration. I began the series at the beginning of the year while mourning the loss of my grandmother, and have painted more and more portals during every up and down this year has offered.
My figurative series involves getting to know subjects and learning about their relationship to self and body. Most of these are womxn who have done or are doing a lot of work around healing their relationship to self and are building greater levels of self-trust and love.
Posing then becomes part of this healing integration for them. Before COVID, these womxn would come visit my studio, sip tea, hang out, chat about eating disorder recovery, or healing from addiction or abuse while munching on pastries. We’d meditate or do some breathwork, and then they’d take off their clothes, and I’d paint and/or photograph them. It was such a fun and affirming experience! Clients would always leave and then immediately text me saying how ALIVE they felt. How strong and badass they felt. I’d hear from them weeks and months later how the experience had affected their response to their naked body.
Since COVID, the project has gone digital. Participants now get to reclaim the lens and snap a self-portrait of themselves that they feel is compassionate and inspiring. I coach them through the process, and then they send me the photo to turn into a painting. I mostly just love that more womxn are encouraged to take time to appreciate their body. To see it outside of the lens of the boring old societal standards. To see it outside the scope of what anyone else thinks. To see it for what it is. A vessel. A gift.
What advice and tips can you give to other artists during this time?
You saw that coming right? No. But truly. Love yourself via small, daily actions. Don’t forget that eating your veggies, getting good sleep, moving your body, enjoying an afternoon being lazy, allowing yourself time to cry whenever you need to cry—these are all vital parts of the creative process. Everything is interconnected.
Creativity is a higher brain function. That means it requires all your other needs be met first. So, knowing that, if you’re struggling right now, don’t forget there’s no need to beat yourself up for not feeling creative!! Be patient. Feel your feelings. Move your body. Ask for support if you need support. Know your value is wrapped up in who you are, not what you make.
How are you cultivating community for yourself and what can the community be doing to support artists?
After social distancing became a reality, I created an online learning community for folks to grow in creativity and interpersonal healing. So far this year, I’ve led two cohorts through a program I call the Creative Self-Love Club which combines group coaching calls, online learning modules, creativity prompts and challenges, self-reflective assignments, and so much more. The CSLC is based around the belief that all humans are inherently creative, and as we allow ourselves to connect to our creativity, we ourselves become consciously recreated and “grow the good in our brain” as Rick Hanson puts it.
I’ve had so much fun utilizing my education background in this capacity that I recently decided to launch a 1:1 coaching intensive for artists who want to heal the artist struggle and make good money doing what they love. I love sharing insights, stories, tips, feedback, meditations—all sorts of goodness on my IG story, and love connecting with other artists through my DMs or free discovery calls. I believe a rising tide lifts all boats, and as I grow and learn, it is my honor to share that experience with others.
About Ashley Trabue
Ashley Trabue (she/they) is an artist and educator known for their figurative paintings and photographs which are held in public and private collections internationally. They are a passionate proponent of presence, curiosity, and self-love.
You can follow Ashley on Instagram at: @ashleytrabue or on her website https://www.ashleytrabue.com/