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ART

Ashli Ognelodh

ARTIST 

“Everything is art to me.”


We met on a Tuesday afternoon at a French bakery in the heart of West Midtown (Atlanta). As I walked from the back of the entrance to the front, I see Ashli sitting at a table looking out of the front window. I cautiously greeted her and when she acknowledged, that is when I first met Ashli. We moved to another table, one that was more feasible for a conversation, away from distraction and less noise. Ashli previously informed me via text that she was shy and would not have much to offer, but she proved herself wrong.

GJ: Are you from Atlanta?

AO: Yes.

GJ: Where did you go to high school?

AO: I went to Cedar Grove High School, but I was born in Atlanta and I grew up in the Thomasville area.

GJ: Who is Ashli Ognelodh?

AO: She is so many things. That is such a great question. I am a culmination of all my experiences. That is the best way that I can articulate it. I guess an embodiment of all those things, and an exploration of that embodiment. That is the best way I can put it.

GJ: What sparked your interest in art?

AO: I started doing art when I was six years old. I couldn’t trace pictures in books. I remember that I had this Snow White book and I was trying to trace the wicked witch and the paper kept moving. I told myself to forget it and I said to myself that I am going to just draw it. I drew it and I loved it.

GJ: How did you know that art was your calling or purpose in life?

AO: I didn’t know. I tell people all the time that art chose me. I did not choose it. I was twenty-one years old at the time, and I was working for Bank of America. I was attending Victory World Church and God told me to quit my job and pursue art. I told God that He had me messed up. I make good money; I am only twenty-one years old. I am on the fast track. God kept calling me. He did not stop. I did have the privilege growing up of seeing what it looked like when people had callings and did not obey it. I am getting older; I realize that art was my purpose from the beginning.

GJ: How important is it for you to walk in your purpose? What does that feel like?

AO: It feels great, challenging and free. Having the privilege to wake up and do what you are called to do every single day, even with its trials is great. Trials come. Most people think that just because you are walking in your purpose, it is easy. It is a constant elevation. Just because you are in one place, you can’t stay there. You must keep propelling. I do love the fact that I get to do what I love daily. It also increases my dependency on God. Every day is different, and I love that. I love the fact of not knowing and then something amazing happens. It is like Christmas every day.

GJ: What is your definition of art, as an artist?

AO: No one has ever asked me that question before. I guess creating. I tell people all the time to give yourself grace and freedom to create. That is art for me. When I’ve taught art classes, people tell me that I am not an artist, but I tell people all the time that everyone can create. What most people lack is the patience and confidence to do so. It is my job to bring that out of you. Everything is art to me. We are all these intricate masterpieces.

GJ: What defines a successful artist?

AO: I love this question. It is based on your definition of success. Everyone’s definition of success is different. For me, it is a success that I get to wake up and do artistically what I would like to do. It is something very joyous about getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning and painting. My studio is in my home. Other people’s applauses are wonderful, but when you can clap for yourself it is something totally different.

GJ: In reading your bio, I see that you are often inspired by your spiritual relationship with Christ, tell me how does your relationship with Christ manifest itself in your work?

AO: When I was born, my mother, when she was pregnant with me, she was a drug addict. She had a horrible crack addiction. She did drugs up until the time her water broke. My birth story is that she checked herself into Grady Memorial Hospital at 3 o’clock a.m. These two people came out of nowhere and started praying over her stomach. Before that happened, I was supposed to be born blind and deaf due to the drug addiction of my mother. Just knowing the God saw fit to not only allow me to see, but He allowed me to see in color. He allowed me to see beyond what others see. That is a powerful thing. God intentionally came to save me. I realized that my gift is really a gift. With any gift you need to know how to steward that gift. I have a responsibility to use my gift wisely.

GJ: You define your work as a juxtaposition of emotion and identity. What does that mean?

AO: I am an emotionally based painter. I literally paint how I feel and what I feel. For years, I struggled with my identity. My last name is not my father’s last name. When my mother was pregnant with me, she was still married. I had the last name of her husband. When you go through life with that and struggling trying to figure out who you are it is difficult. I built my identity on a lie. My sister has been that vehicle that pushes me artistically. There is an artistic part of me, but there is also a spiritual part of me. I am trying to keep them separate, even though they are both a part of my identity. They walk side by side and they counter each other. They are very necessary for survival.

GJ: What is your aesthetic as an artist?

AO: My focus is women. Mostly because I am a woman. If I am emotionally painting, then in some part of an art form I am painting myself. But my personal work is like love letters between me and God. It is our exchange with one another. Whether it’s me having to deal with something within myself or it’s just a way to emotionally release. I do like to use a lot of color. I love color. Different colors represent different things. I like being a vessel for other people.

GJ: What struggles have you had as an artist and how did you overcome them?

AO: There have been so many struggles. When God calls you to do something, society tells you that it is going to happen immediately. There is a lot that you must go through. I will say that constantly believing in myself is a struggle. I do get discouraged sometimes. I do realize that my content is a lot different than what I see elsewhere. I am trying to make sure that I stay true to myself and stay in my lane. I don’t want to allow conventional norms to dictate the lane that I am supposed to be in. I want to focus on what I am supposed to be focused on artistically.

GJ: Where do you see yourself in the future?

AO: I would love to own a gallery space. Not just a gallery space, but an art healing center. That is a goal of mine. I do feel that art is therapeutic, and it has so many healing components. I would like to create a space for people to come and be healed artistically.

Guest Information

ASHLI OGNELODH

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