“I’m in here trying to get my shit together for Fashion Week,” Ashley Longshore says to me at the top of a Zoom call while bustling about a closet in her farmhouse just outside of New Orleans. “I’m going to a bunch of really amazing shows, which I’m excited about, and then I’m co-hosting two parties with Suzanne Bartsch.”
And just like that, we’re off to the races—no surface-level pleasantries, no feeling each other out, just straight to Fashion Week, parties, and Suzanne Bartsch. Such is the Ashley Longshore way, a larger-than-life personality and painter who’s exploded into the art and fashion world over the last few years fueled by a magnetic effervescence and self-taught painting chops.
When I ask if there are animals on her farm, she doesn’t miss a beat, quipping, “Party animals! And three dogs…” Longshore’s farmhouse is part studio, part adult playground where she retreats to paint and frolic. “I’ve got a vegetable garden and a flower garden, I’ve raised little butterflies and I have a swimming pool. In between paintings, I’ll jump in! I get to play like a child.” This spunky tableau aligns seamlessly with the bright light of ebullience Longshore presents herself as to the public through her social media presence, and that’s reflected in her pop-art inspired paintings. It’s clear to me from the jump that this is Longshore’s authentic self.
“After the last fucking two years, let’s talk about inspiration! Let’s talk about joy! Let’s talk about waking up and telling yourself the reasons why you can do something, not the reasons why you fucking can’t. People need to hear that shit!” she continues passionately. “I’m so tired of watching people tear each other apart. I just want music and art and drag queens and paintings and champagne popping at the appropriate times. I want to laugh, I want to have fun, goddammit!”
So where does Longshore’s radical enthusiasm and vivacious spirit come from? She credits some of it to her natural disposition, but sees it also as a response to being a bit of an outsider from a young age. “I always felt so weird as a child. I was raised in Montgomery, fucking Alabama,” she says. “I was raised to be a trophy wife, to go get married to some rich man. I could make my little paintings on the side, but I was supposed to have a bunch of fucking kids. I never had a cheerleader body… I was always very enthusiastic and full of energy, and I just didn’t fit in with that main girls crowd, the crowd that we think we need to belong in. But I’ve always had a very strong inner monologue of, I’m okay, I’m going to be okay, I can only be me. I just gotta’ find my path.”
Longshore attended the University of Montana for college where she studied English Literature, but ultimately found her sense of self outside of the classroom once she immersed herself in nature. “My first love and when I really found myself, was when I was able to go and be in nature all the time. To go have picnics by the river with my friends, to go hiking up to the top of a mountain, to go snowmobiling. I really found myself and found strength in that. Maybe that’s why I love my farm so much.”
Through bouts of soul-searching and introspection, Longshore tried painting on for size. She’d dabbled in the craft a bit growing up, but says her mom didn’t think she could ever sit still long enough to enroll her in art classes. “I always had an interest in art and things that were beautiful. I think being at that age and contemplating what I was gonna have to do for the rest of my life led me to be motivated about my own self interests.” This can-do attitude hasn’t stopped at painting, either. “I’ve taught myself how to hatch butterflies, and I’m teaching myself how to drag queen makeup. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be all about?” she shares. “Maybe a lot of it is just destiny and being attached to your intuition; I have a very strong intuition.”
“So through me trying to really discover who the fuck I am and me being out in Montana and out in nature, I was like I’m gonna get some canvas and I’m gonna paint. And let me tell you, I found a love, a feeling I’ve never felt before, a feeling of accomplishment, a feeling of time well spent. When I first started painting, I knew that whether I ever met the love of my life or made a million dollars, I had found something very great for the rest of my life. A true love of my life.”
After unlocking this love of painting, the pragmatic considerations set in. “I wanted to ‘make it’ and I believed in the American dream, so I was like, how am I going to turn this into a business?” she says. “That’s when I just started putting myself out there, with every gallery going “No, no, no, no, no, no…Maybe? No, you’re not marketable. No, no, no, no, no.” And I was like, You know what? Fuck this shit. I’m just gonna open up my own gallery. I can do this myself. I can know who my clients are. So I just started painting all the time. Failing certainly was not an option.”
Longshore continued to let her interests guide her when it came to what she painted. “I started painting female icons who really inspired me, like Frida Kahlo and Audrey Hepburn,” she says. Her work still primarily focuses on beloved female figures from throughout history, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gloria Steinem, and Madonna. “I always have these incredible beautiful unbelievable iconic accomplished women around me because it’s a reminder to be authentic. Don’t give up. These women have taken so much shit. They’re beautiful. They left their mark on the world. They’re leaving their mark on the world.”
When I ask Longshore about her predilection for pop culture and the formative pop cultural influences that helped shape her artistic worldview, she opens up with her characteristic honesty about her mother. “My mother is a very beautiful woman and she was very caught up in what people thought of her. Behind closed doors, I got to see how that traumatized her within an inch of her life, so I think my first big impression of pop culture would absolutely have been my mother’s need to get so dressed up to impress her friends,” she says. “Maybe that really is where my love of fashion started for me as well. I knew I didn’t want to be like my mom, and I knew I wasn’t like my mom. I didn’t want to follow the same path as my mom; I wanted to do things differently.”
In the face of southern sensibilities and socialite toxicity exemplified by her mother, Longshore managed to maintain an unwavering sense of self. “I believe in my own power to live my life the way that I want to live it,” she states defiantly. “To study things that have an effect on me, and to paint them in my own way. When I started painting all of those beautiful women, I decided they were like my mothers. I always had this strong feminine energy around me. I love the hyper-feminine. I love diamonds and I love flowers and I love little birds. It’s all so joyful and beautiful and it makes me happy. I like all of that combined with all of the greed and the rat race and the madness that our society lays so heavily upon our shoulders. Me painting it and jesting with it makes it much easier to deal with.”
Longshore’s relationship to wealth and the wealthy is an interesting one, now that she has achieved remarkable success in the art world through work that ultimately thumbs its nose at the rich, and takes the piss out of glitz and glam. “I’ve worked hard enough in my career where I’ve now flown on a Gulfstream. I’ve been at the fanciest events with cameras in my face. I’ve sat with super fucking unreal famous people. And I’ve got to be honest with you, that is fun as shit,” she says. “I did a whole series called ‘Still Happy’ about this, and one of the pieces says, ‘They were drinking champagne on a Gulfstream, I was naked in bed eating cake with my dog.’ Now I’ve done both, and eating cake naked in bed with my dog? I would rather be doing that.”
“I’ve always known money isn’t what’s gonna make me truly happy. When they say money doesn’t make you happy, they ain’t lying about that. There’s bitches on Gulfstreams right now crying their eyes out, grabbing a little embroidered hanky out of their crocodile Birkin bag and they are absolutely miserable. And then there’s somebody else having a damn Virginia Slim, drinking a Diet Coke riding around in their 1993 Hyundai who just put on the new Beyoncé album, and has never felt so great in their fucking lives. Where do we draw our power?”
By the end of our conversation, Longshore’s signature painting style and aesthetic makes perfect sense. It’s the utmost reflection of her personality and the way she struts through life. “I love color. Color makes me feel amazing,” she says. “I don’t know why the minute you graduate from college everything is supposed to be fucking greige. I don’t want any fucking greige—I want to feel alive.”