We thought you might like to meet more of us who work here at the Gallery, so the newsletter team interviewed our painter, Ashley Harrison! Read on to hear about what she does, her artistic background, and her thoughts on the Giust Gallery/Caproni Collection.
Ashley finishing a cast of Hermes
To offer some background, Ashley started at the Giust Gallery as an intern when she first joined in the Spring of 2015. She was freshly graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art & Design. There she received her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from the Painting Department.
Ashley, what made you pursue a degree in Painting?
I chose to major in Painting because it's the most open department MassArt has to offer. There it would be acceptable to incorporate many different mediums into my practice. A wide variety of skills that branch into sculpture and illustration was the result. I'm so happy I made that decision. One needs many different skills and talents to work at the Giust Gallery. As an intern, I worked wherever they needed me. One day would be a day of clay work and another would consist of digital illustration or casting. Then I discovered my true love in patinating.
(Note: Patinating is the final process of creating a sculpture. It's what gives the piece its final color and texture. The patina of a plaster or resin cast can mimic the look of marble, metal, stone, or terra cotta. View a video of Ashley patinating a piece here!)
I have a history in special effects and set work for theater. We made Styrofoam look like stone or brick with heat guns and paint. For a brief time I had my own business making dolls, so I already had a feel for painting on ceramic-like surfaces. It felt like all my life's journeys were leading up to patinating. I get to be somewhat like an alchemist turning paints, shellacs, and pigments into gold and bronze.
You’ve said you enjoy the restoration work we do at the Giust Gallery. Tell us about that.
Yes. Another dream of mine was to pursue art restoration. Such opportunities are scarce, so I'm lucky restoration is a big part of my job. We get to breathe new life back into timeless treasures and family heirlooms. It's my job to seamlessly match the colors and textures existing on the piece to fill in damaged surfaces. This is like traditional observational canvas painting, so it fulfills my inner Rembrandt.
What’s your favorite piece in the Collection and why?
What a difficult question! If I have to pick one with the most personal significance it would be the La Belle Italienne Mask. She comes with a tragic and mysterious story, and is the most kissed face in the world. Also, in my opinion, she bares somewhat of an uncanny resemblance to myself.
Ashley with La Belle Italienne Item #744
I think of our Gallery as a meaning-factory, and I’m a meaning-maker. Each piece represents an idea from the collective unconscious of mankind. Regardless of one’s age or cultural background, the meanings of each piece are felt and understood on an instinctual level. That is what makes the pieces timeless and how we are all universally connected to the Collection, including myself.
All our best,
Robert, Kathleen, Lisa, and Kayla