Meet the Artists: Ashley Westwood + Jonathan Farber

Meet the Artists: Ashley Westwood + Jonathan Farber


Incase you didn’t already know, we have two wonderful new solo exhibits up in the Holland Project Gallery through Nov. 18th by über talented local artists, Ashley Westwood and Jonathan Farber. Our awesome Gallery Interns, Ana and Ally, took a little time to pick Ashley and Jonathan’s brains a bit and asked them a few questions about their current work. Check out both of their mini interviews below then come see their work in person TONIGHT (11/4) during the Opening Reception from 5-7pm!




Based on your inspiration of “childhood memories, dreams, and the idea of the void”, how did you come to decide to use the pale watercolors and color palette that you did?

The watercolor medium has always been attractive to me because of the transparency and lightness of the paint. I always used to water down other types of paint to try and achieve that quality so eventually it just made more sense to use watercolors and I immediately loved using them so much more. The medium, to me, is perfect in portraying the same transparent feeling that memories and dreams have; things that are intangible and always changing.

There is a house featured in a lot of the pieces, and the repeated image of a “doorway”. What does this represent and what do you want the viewer to get from this motif?

The image of the house in this body of work is a specific reference to a photograph taken by my dad before I was born. He and his father had trapped bobcats that season and, as a way to record how many they’d caught, had hung the pelts on the front of a shed on my grandpa’s property. The skins completely covered the face of the shed so that only the roofline and the dark interior, or doorway, can be seen. It looks as though the entire structure was built and supported by the pelts and is a really haunting and ethereal image. By hanging all of these animals in the same spot it seems to me like there might be more spiritual potency in a place like this, where there was more of a concentration of trauma. If there is any real ‘doorway’ to some other realm or dimension it would probably be in a place like that. I suppose that I want the viewer to see the house motif as a point of entry or a place within a place. Supposedly a house in your dreams represents your whole self; each room a different part of your psyche. In the work I am imagining that there would be a similar house image in that in-between or ‘void’ world that contains all of the spirits and visions that don’t exist in our waking reality.

Was there a special reason you chose to utilize shadow boxes instead of traditional frames?

I really like how much space there is inside of a shadow box frame and I was hoping that it would extend the white ‘void’ that I am trying to create in my work. They are big enough to float the work inside of, instead of matting it which enhances the lightness that I want to portray. Also, they were simultaneously the best-looking and cost effective frames that I could find which was a plus!

Do the pieces have a chronological storytelling order, or are they scrambled as dreams and memories often are?

There is no chronological order to the work but there is a definite narrative going on in all of the pieces. They are similar to dreams and memories in that many of the pieces have references from both of those woven into them. Sometimes the boundary between the real and imagined is blurred and oftentimes it is difficult to distinguish what is based in reality. I often experience sleep-paralysis and hallucinations before falling asleep or waking and so the pieces kind of patch together some of those images.

Can you tell us about what the repetition of starfish in your work represents?

I started painting starfish at first because they appeared in a really lucid dream that I had and I couldn’t shake the image. The dream was really gruesome and horrifying but near the end starfish started raining from the sky. As animals that can regrow a lost limb they represent healing and protection so I really like the idea of them existing in a hypothetical ‘in-between’ world. To me they act as protectors and guardians in a place that has the potential to be really dark and unsettling; maybe they are impervious to any harm that could come to them there.

Circles have been used to represent the infinite; what did you have in mind in using the circular images in your own work?

Circles do represent the infinite in my work and I really like the geometry of them. It isn’t possible to see where they start and end, similar to the nature of a dream state or memory. They are possibly other entry and exit points into other dimensions.

How has growing up in Nevada specifically influenced you and your work? What aspects of your background are most evident in your art?

Spending time at my grandparent’s property in Wells, Nevada really influenced my work. They had a bird farm on several acres of land and they also had a large junkyard on their property for me to explore. I spent a lot of quiet time alone in the desert and my memories in that place are very skewed; I remember it feeling like a place that had a lot of history and spiritual potency. My grandfather used to ‘witch’ for water to help find wells for all the people in his community. Later in his life he used his dowsing rod to communicate with the deceased and claimed to have spoken to other entities and demons by accident also. He was able to discover things that he shouldn’t have been able to know by doing this. While no one will ever know whether there was any truth to this, it is striking to me that he was doing it in the place where I already liked to think that I felt a lot of spirit energy.

How have your ideas of life and death continued to grow and change as you grew up and developed as an artist?

Over the last few years there has been a lot of death in my family and so I suppose that my ideas about life and death have changed inevitably. I have seen some of these people in dreams and in sleep paralysis episodes and so it has become a much more integral part of my work. I used to focus more on death in relation to trapping and hunting, although I didn’t want the politics of those things to become the focus of my work. Now I focus on death more as a meditation and an open-ended question. I want to think that there is some other place for us to navigate through once we’ve passed on and I don’t think it is quite as simple as going up to one place or down to another.

What is your relationship with animals?

Growing up I always had at least four pets so animals have always been an important part of my life! I specifically am drawn to animals as a subject because they are a glaring example of beings that we as humans will never fully understand. There is no way that we could ever know what an animal is thinking or feeling and how/if they identify with themselves or with us. In the ‘void’ that I am trying to create, they act as symbols and vehicles for dream images or even souls. If there were some space in-between life and death, or sleeping and waking, I think that the things existing on that plane would be impossible to interpret or communicate with directly, similar to the exchange that we have with animals.




We noticed themes of biology in your works. How does science and your career in nursing influence your work?

Nursing school was a beast. It was two years of intense, ingrained information on the human body, including anatomy, physiology and microbiology. Nursing school did not allow for any leisure activity, so I wasn’t able to make any large bodies of artwork during that time. However, I did notice that making small sketches of physiological processes and anatomies of microcosms really assisted in learning and understanding the foundations of my new career.

The medical community demands that continued education be apart of nursing. And since I learn visually, I have attempted to combine the two practices (art and science) to not only comprehend the infinite complexity of the human body, but continue to expand and evolve my body of work as well as my practice as a nurse.

Your statement mentions that your mark-making style is “an intellectual amusement of the infinite”–could you expand on what this means and how that process affects you?

In certain regards, I see mark-making as a meditative process. Each large drawing takes about 1 month to complete. And in that time, while sitting and drawing, I have the time to think of everything and nothing. For example, if my thought process is focusing on a certain topic during one stroke of line on the piece of paper, and on the next stroke I am thinking of another, I am able to trace and connect two entirely different subject matters together. In culmination, the mass of lines can be depicted as thousands of various thoughts brought together to form a chaotic, and at the same time, a patterned visual response of contemplation. A type of string-theory if you will.

Tell us more about the process of creating these unique works and your motivation in creating such large and colorful pieces.

I don’t consider myself a introvert, but I am often compelled, as I think everyone is, to be alone at times. And I have always been attracted to making art. The two go hand in hand. The process is just finding time to sit down and allow my hand to flow and make minute marks, which after awhile start to sum up to become a finished piece. The question about color is a mystery to me. I like to think that my personal heritage has something to do with it. My last name, Farber, in German is “a person who dyes cloth using colors.” Perhaps I was genetically dispositioned to be attracted to bright colors. Or perhaps I just dig brilliant chromaticity. Who knows?

We noticed that Nevada is present in your work. How has living here inspired you?

I love this state. I have left a few times, but there is an invisible pull that Northern Nevada has which always draws me back. This land has a vastness that is incomprehensible. I am an avid hiker and hunter, and I have noticed that when I get off the beaten path, and travel into the expansive, ever changing, rolling mountains found in Nevada, there is a beautiful solitude, where it is easy to connect with nature. And to add to that, the history of this state is rich in subject matter. I plan on continuing to make works about Nevada to hopefully add to that history and exhibit the prodigious beauty this state has to offer.

How does the video link tie in to your work? Did you create these works with the video in mind?

I honestly forget how I came across the effect this video has on my work. Sometimes, I’ll just mindlessly surf the internet or watch videos on YouTube. And its very easy to fall down the rabbit hole and watch video after video while on YouTube. The “hallucination video” was most likely found by a culmination of watching hours of videos and I happened to watch it and look at my drawings which began to move.  I think this was one of those happy mistakes that simply added another dimension to my work. I am excited to see the viewers response and get feedback. For me, it makes me laugh watching my drawings literally start to move.

Your work has a lot of themes, including biology, football, and geography. What drives these themes and how does your personality shine through in your marks?

This type of work is relatively new. I really didn’t start this body of work until after nursing school. Before, while studying art at the University of Nevada, and Indiana-Purdue University, my focus was primarily in sculpture and ceramics. Even though I have been working on this type of work for two years, I find this body of artwork really new to me, so I feel like I’m still playing around with it and discovering what  I like and don’t like. I think I’m starting to create categories within the work, such as science, Nevada, and purely abstract pattern. I think the drive behind the themes can be derived from the anti-memesis thought found in Oscar Wilde’s “Decay of Lying,” where he states “results not merely from life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of life is to find expression, and that art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy.” In other words, my environment shapes my work, and my work shapes the way I view my environment.

How has your work evolved and what is next for you? Do you have any plans for future work or exhibitions?

As stated in the previous question, this type of work is relatively new to me. And I’m really liking the way it evolving. While at the UNR and at Indiana-Purdue, I felt like I was always exploring different methods of art making and experimenting with different mediums, never really landing on a unique style. I played around with metal casting, ceramics, welding, and painting, which were all very attractive and I really had fun doing. But they all lacked cohesion. I think I have finally found a foundation of where I can base my work. It is a unique style I can call my own. I would like to think that in the future I will be able to take this style and begin sculpting and painting again. But until then, I’m really having fun watching the drawings evolve as well as the process of making them.

Do you have a favorite or least favorite piece in the exhibit? Which ones and why?

The abstract pieces, such as “Ecchymosis,” and “Blue Boy” are the easiest to make and take the least time. I usually find myself working on two or three pieces at the same time. Whenever I’m working on a difficult drawing and I get tired of working on it, I return to the abstract pieces, where I can simply turn my brain off, and let my hand do the work. I don’t really have a favorite, but the one that makes me laugh is “Nevada Cat Hunter’s Edition.” This piece hides all the whore houses that were, and are, established in the state. When looking at the piece from afar, its simply a map of Nevada. But when viewing the drawing up close, the titles of all the “cathouses” begin to appear. I think that this can be analogous to the comical fact that the oldest profession is legal in the state, and that everyone knows it, but it is hidden within all of the other aspects of Nevada. Please note that there was no “physical” research in finding the Nevada houses of ill repute.