Quick Q&A with Ash Casti

Engaging artists in conversation is something we’re always trying to do at Gallery Aferro, but rarely this is something we can do ourselves. As governances and best practices evolved with the spread of COVID-19, Gallery Aferro decided to temporarily close its doors to the public, deciding instead to engage our audience online.

One of the ways we thought to continue engaging and with our current how “Glimpse” as a starting point, we wanted to reach out to artists participating in that show to ask questions about that work. I’m therefore excited to share today some questions I asked artist Ash Casti this week! I asked her about her work on view for “Glimpse” but also about her art practice in general. A few years ago Casti donated two stellar works of art to Gallery Aferro’s 2018 Auction & Benefit, and I fell in love with them – it was the “Fire Island Diptych” and I got to ask her about those works as well.

Juno Zago – Has your practice been impacted by the quarantine? 

Ash Casti – It definitely has put a damper on my creative drive, but I am working on 2 new pieces currently. It’s hard not to read the news daily, but it’s nice to have that time to dedicate to my paintings and give them that little extra love without pressures of deadlines. 

JZ – What is your relationship to color? It seems so important for some artists to “find their palette,” is that important to you? Your colors seem so unafraid!

AC – I appreciate the compliment, but it wasn’t always that way! Before getting comfortable with color, I found myself at a battle with the endless possibilities that are found within color as well a mix of my own doubts. Relying on silly questions like “is that a good match? does this work here or there?”. It wasn’t until my thesis, where I truly explored the relationship to color and the narrative I was trying to depict. I enjoy working with bold colors where you can feel the heat/tension on the figure/space. I am nowhere near where I want to be, but I am growing a deeper relationship to color with just basic trial and error. I also love a good gradient! 

JZ – Walk me through that diptych if you can, where did it come from? The idea behind it can come off very taboo to some viewers. When I first saw the works the figures didn’t even hit me straight away, I was much more enamored by what I described then as “fruit-colored shapes” I remember being in conversation with a viewer once who was attracted to the colors but had to stop and think a long while to contemplate what the figures were doing. 

AC – I take a lot of my paintings ideas from moments in my own queer life. Fire Island to me is that overtly exaggeration of what people assume it is, just a bunch of people having sex on the beach. Yet, I know and anyone who is in the community knows it is much deeper than that. At times, I make my figures appear unrecognizable, less human-like as we are sometimes viewed or as I sometimes have felt. These 2 pieces were originally 30×40 oil paintings, but I tried my best to replicate them to smaller size for this particular show with Gallery Aferro. I love hearing that viewers have to take a step back or find themselves questioning what the piece is as sometimes as an artist I don’t really mind if people get the message or not. Maybe they just like the use of color? Maybe they enjoy deciphering the narrative? It’s nice to have a conversation about my work and the endless interpretations. Sometimes, I just want to paint two people eating a** on a beach towel. 

JZ – What’s your work process like?

AC – My painting ideas come from conversations with friends in the LGBTQIA community or I’ll create a series in my head that I’d like to see visually. Right now, all I want is ice cream and the summer sun beaming on me. This want will turn into “let’s paint a naked figure on a beach ball eating ice cream dripping all over them” (this is a thought I am working out currently). I’ll sketch out some ideas, I’ll test colors out to see what works best. I love being excited about the work I’m creating and this can backfire on me as I tend to stray from a painting if the excitement fades. Discipline is another big part of my process to avoid straying. If I need to make changes or rearrangements, I let that fuel me versus abandoning the idea entirely. 

JZ – Also, what drives you to do your work?

AC – Overall, just the love for painting and how alive it makes me feel. I love being around people, but painting is so personal to me. For example, I enjoyed printmaking in College and the team effort it takes to finish a print. Yet, with painting it’s just me and my brushes. Releasing that tension and passion into my work and seeing my ideas come alive is a big factor in why I continue to create. It’s nice to have an outlet as well as the connections being built with the viewers, myself, and the figures in my work. 

I want to extend immense thanks to Ash Casti for her time. Casti is an artist who depicts moments from the LGBTQIA community using oil paint as her preferred medium. Her continuous interactions with the community make their way into her paintings. She is fascinated by what we as a culture overtly or subtly communicate about the LGBTQIA experience. Casti received her BFA in Painting from William Paterson University. Follow her on Instagram @ashcasti ! ■

– Juno Zago

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