By Casha Doemland
June 4, 2018
Los Angeles-based artist, Ashley Lukashevsky shapes the world through the artwork she creates. Her powerful illustrations focus on the promotion of equal rights, self-love and work to dismantle patriarchal nonsense.
One of her art pieces was selected by Common, Ty Dolla $ign, Kehlani and more to be on display at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival centered around mental health for youth. I caught up with Ashley at the event's artist reception to learn about her journey through art and the impact she'd like to create.
Casha Doemland: Let's start with the basics, tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art?
Ashley Lukashevsky: I am originally from Honolulu, Hawaii and have been in Los Angeles for eight years now. I moved out here to study International Relations at USC, only to discover right before graduation that I didn't have an interest in pursuing the route I had studied so hard for.
So, I jumped into graphic design because my main goal, through education and everything I do, is to create social change and work in social justice. For some reason, I didn't think art as a way to achieve that, I thought the only course of action was through words and research.
Then, I realized art is totally a way to attract attention and make people think about politics and social justice that the written word couldn't. Through my graphic design and visual art, I began to produce pieces that would draw people's attention, as well as what I found important.
Outside of my full-time job, I began creating editorial illustrations to feed my creative side.
CD: When did your art shift to focus on inclusivity, empowerment and often time politics?
AL: After the election, I feel like everyone had this turning point. For me, it occurred on a long backpacking trip where I had this visceral reaction to the policies that were being proposed as well as the racist and xenophobic rhetoric that was happening in the country.
To cope, I began to draw and the illustrations felt true to myself and the communities around me. And that’s the story of how I became a full-time artist.
CD: You created a piece for We Rise, will you walk me through the inspiration behind the piece and why you chose to display this one here?
AL: This woodcut is actually a painting that is based on an illustration I drew a year ago.
The concept popped up when I was talking to a friend who was going through a rough time, and I began thinking about this book I had read when I was really down on myself – a time when I was not loving myself. So, I read a self-help book that talked about how you need to treat yourself the way you would treat a child or someone who was deserving of gentleness, love and kindness, instead of the criticizing yourself.
When it came to giving advice to my friend, I told her to picture a little you in your hands, and take care of yourself, the way you would take care of it. Once I had the idea, I drew it and it was basically a manifestation of the idea that we need to treat ourselves the way we treat others in our lives.
For a lot of women, especially women of color, I feel like we put so much love into the world through activism and our personal relationships, that we don't always turn that love inward. That's something I want to remind people to do.
CD: How does creating art help you find peace in life?
AL: There’s so much happening in terms of restrictions of rights in our country and the way that some lives are valued more than others, and that’s something that all of us see and it’s heartbreaking.
For me, the best way to process things like that as well as the horrible news I read is to draw something that could be taken as a directive from that. This horrible thing happened, what can we do to counter it?
Thinking about what that is and putting the pen to paper is a really cathartic outlook for me, instead of just internally holding it in and letting it eat away at me.
CD: What advice do you have to give fellow artists who want to take the same stance you have?
AL: I know it’s hard to say exactly what’s on your mind when you think people may not agree with you, or you think what you’re saying is extreme or radical, but I think that taking a stance on social justice issues against racism, xenophobia and transphobia is so important.
The more people that speak up, the louder and more powerful we become.
I don’t think there’s any wrong way to do it as long as you’re taking the initiative to learn and to realize that we’re all on this path to liberation together. Additionally, if you have the skills whether it’s visual art, music or writing use them. We’re a time right now where everyone should use their skills to shape the world they want to see.