NICHOLE ASHIKIS is the kind of person who puts eye shadow in her hair, thinks “worthless shit is priceless,” and saves her paint pallets as though they were diary pages. She believes “Scowling is the new black,” because it’s more honest than an attempted smile. She puts a mask on when she’s alone, because it gets her out of whatever state in which she currently finds herself. Nichole Ashikis – the self-proclaimed “Mess Whisperer” – is the kind of person who sells not just art, but a token of herself.
Article and Photograph by Rebekah Pascouau
Ashikis begins the creative process by surrounding herself with canvases, explaining that she can’t work on just one piece at a time, because it would make her dizzy. Her process is subconscious and involuntary, but consistent. There is a function to the mess, and she finds that her life fits into it. Everything matters: the shapes and the way they’re staged, the height of the shapes, the negative space. It all creates an incalculable formula that she just knows. Every now and then, however, Ashikis finds herself stopping to clean up, saying, “The shapes make sense to me again, [and] my art gets sharper.” Before cleaning, she reaches a point where she sees only colors – and obsessively plays with these colors – because she can’t see shapes anymore. For Ashikis, painting is having a visceral reaction to color. The surrounding areas seem grey, compared to her ‘90s greens and pinks. In her paintings, there is “the right amount of argument with the right amount of space around it.” Having been previously known as “Dripping Neon Design,” her friends make an accurate assessment of a viewer’s first glance by saying, “Nichole’s favorite color is bright.”
Ashikis’ art, for the most part, can be divided into two major categories: shapes & women. What is especially interesting about Ashikis, however, is that her art doesn’t end on the canvas. While being interviewed in her studio, she explains, “I consider my art to be a passenger. This room is the art.This room has a pulse.”
In feeling so strongly about where her art is made, Ashikis does all that she can to bring her studio into any exhibit she has on display. She is known for strewing nails, rags, and aprons on the floor, right next to finished – and sometimes unfinished – pieces of art. “This dude bought my shoes,” she told me, explaining that she had left a pair of dirty, painted shoes in one of her exhibits. For Ashikis, part of what makes her art so special is knowing what it came out of. “Production of the paintings is all I have out of them,” she says. “It’s a bigger concept than really just art. It’s a mania.”
According to Ashikis, she began to feel like an artist after receiving “thank you” emails as people walked by her exhibits. The emails flowed in with gratification for her simply being around. Now, she feels as if she’s just known, and the appreciation is gone. Now, it’s, “Your art could be in a CD!” vs. an $800 print sale made earlier in the week. “It’s like I get an opportunity to be in their CD…but they don’t realize they only know my name in the first place, because my art is worth being paid for.” In fact, Ashikis finds that some people pay more than the agreed upon price, because of what a great job she’s done. Ashikis prides herself in her work, and refuses to finish a job until she can do it right.
Despite the pride she takes in her work, Ashikis often finds herself being compared to other artists. She explains that people assume she thinks she’s entitled and try to make her feel like she’s not important. In reality, she’s living what she would call the life of a “vulnerable, weak human being”. She claims that living such a life is the only thing she’s good at, and that it empowers her. “People don’t know how human I really am. I’m not a celebrity.” When meeting new people, Ashikis is tired of getting so much credit for just being an artist. “I want to earn my awesomeness,” she tells me. Ashikis explains that there’s always a social anxiety that no one expects, and that she has to prepare herself to be social due to expectations put on her as an artist. “The fans don’t regard you as a human being…and it’s isolating.” Ashikis tells me that being an artist is like being a cartoon, so she gets away with being crazy. “I’m not crazy,” Ashikis explains. “It hurts to be ‘reserved’ for parties and things.” Ashikis wants us to know that being an artist isn’t about being crazy. Being an artist, Ashikis tells us, “is part chemical imbalance, part intellect”.
For more on Ashikis’s art click here
757E Zine is a bi-monthly music, arts, and culture magazine dedicated to local musicians and artists who are not afraid to push boundaries. 757E Zine doesn't strive to be "safe" but rather in touch with what is new and unique in Hampton Roads music and art.
Contact us. for advertising opportunities.