Artists from Everywhere: Ashley Hoffman
by Olivia Lloyd
Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains just 50 miles outside of Washington DC, Frederick, Maryland is a small city that toes the line between provincial town and a capital-area commuter haven. While Western Maryland is often overlooked in comparison to the wealthier D.C. area or more scenic east coast, Frederick has a surprisingly authentic, quirky vibe. The town hosts big names like Flying Dog Brewery and two Bryan Voltaggio restaurants that might, at first glance, make Frederick seem like a big city. But its small population (just around 66,000), reasonable cost of living, and proximity to rolling farmlands and mountains keep the bustling downtown area in check.
For Ashley Hoffman, Frederick’s convergence of city and country life make for an ideal home-base that feeds both her creative energy and her need to live in a comforting, grounding atmosphere. Ashley’s photography and collage art are deeply personal, political, and sensual. By living close to rural landscapes, Ashley has plenty of opportunity for inspiration, but is still part of a vibrant community that hosts an audience for her work. With DC and Baltimore about an hour away, there are plenty of opportunities to engage with the well-established creative communities in each city. Still, Ashley often avoids city chaos, preferring the quiet, close-knit creative community that Frederick provides.
How she got started:
My mom gave me her camera when I was 12 and I never put it away. I utilize film photography to document people and places while I use collage to express my ideas.
Where you’ve seen her work:
I am involved with a project called Looking At Appalachia (http://lookingatappalachia.org) which was created and directed by Roger May. The project is a crowdsourced image archive that looks at Appalachia fifty years after the declaration of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Over 50 photographers have contributed to this ongoing photo essay to define Appalachia by its people as opposed to political legislation. I have multiple photographs on the website as well as one in the traveling exhibition that has also been featured in Huck Magazine and numerous online publications. Right now I am working on a photo series about young Appalachian farmers.
On Making art IN A SMALL TOWN:
Living outside of a large city is both conscious and a necessity. I suffer from a mental illness that is exasperated by chaos and soothed by nature. Frederick is my small city compromise between urban and rural. Occasionally I have paid opportunities presented to me in the form of advertising and commissioned photos. I am lucky enough to have many creative friends in the region and we often help each other out when we can!
A DAY IN THE LIFE:
I am working on cultivating a regular meditation practice every day before I leave the house and I always stretch and do yoga before bed. Wednesday-Friday are dedicated to the restaurant and making my income. Saturdays I am usually in an art show/going to an art show/seeing my girlfriend play in her incredible band, Cheshi. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are all interchangeable but within those days I catch up on cleaning, groceries, laundry, responding to emails, scanning photos, searching for and entering art shows, updating social media, going into nature with my camera, visiting friends with my camera, visiting farms with my camera. In the colder months you can exchange doing things with my camera to sitting in my studio creating collages and reading books.
Advice to other artists:
You can have a stimulating creative life anywhere you live. Where you decide to live should be based on the environment you prefer. Cultivate community through your creativity and surround yourself with positive, motivated peers who are doing the same. Use the money you are saving by not living in a major city to travel in order to gain new perspectives and experience new cultures. And above all, be present.
Ashley’s work was just featured at the Delaplaine Arts Center in Frederick, Maryland. Click here to learn more.