Identity issues have long troubled Ashley Mudge, “due to my sister and I both having different fathers, and being the only person of color in my family.”
When Mudge was 26, she set out to find her biological father. When she met the man she thought was him, his response threw her. “He told me he knew the day I was born that I wasn’t his daughter.”
Mudge, now 35, says: “Art is the only thing that gets me out of myself, and my business, Art by Ash allows me to quiet the noise and transfer everything I feel and think from my head and my heart to my canvas.”
Mudge, who lives with her partner, Kimberly Mazzochi, in Silver Spring, Maryland, spoke with Zenger about her cathartic journey, in which creativity has led to a therapeutic and profitable business.
Zenger: What is the origin of and the name of your business?
Ashley Mudge: Art by Ash is the name of my business. Originally, I was going to call it Splash Of Color By Ashley. I started out by painting houses. I was getting and doing all of these jobs solo. There weren’t many females in the business, so I decided to publicize my name.
As painting houses turned into painting canvases, Splash Of Color By Ashley became Art by Ash. I had never drawn or painted artistically until after I entered an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program. It was there I found this gift three years ago.
Zenger: What exactly does Art by Ash entail?
Mudge: I am a self-taught artist. I draw and paint mostly images of women. I have been commissioned for murals, tattoo drawings, animal portraits and collages.
I’m extremely passionate about creating multidimensional textured paintings that celebrate female liberation. I feel each woman is her own unique canvas.
I love being able to recreate the beauty of women through my own perception.
Zenger: Are there any projects you are most proud of?
Mudge: I am extremely proud of the Heal art exhibition … through Jan. 8, 2022 …. in Washington, D.C., as well as a show I did in Brooklyn, New York … . The Heal art exhibition is curated by Marlon Powell … and the exhibit is open to the public. Private tours are also given.
Zenger: What activities did you participate in growing up?
Mudge: Growing up, I was always involved in sports. I ran track, was on the community swim team, rode horses, played basketball and participated in kung fu. My mother and sister, Shannon, have always supported and had an influence on me.
My mom would sit at her easel and paint when Shannon and I were young. Shannon went to art school and started sculpting. Each has been a major influence and tremendous support. My mom and her husband, Joe Spanolo, helped me drive a collection of mine from Maryland to New York on the weekend of Sept. 29.
Zenger: Do you care to discuss your ethnicity?
Mudge: I have dealt with identity issues, due to my sister and I having different fathers, and being the only person of color in my family.
Growing up as an adolescent, I was told I was part Native American and that was why my skin got dark in the sun and why my hair was curly. My mother, Liz, is of Caucasian descent.
My biological father was unknown most of my life. At the age of 26, in the hopes of finding him, I looked him up and found him. I talked to him, and he told me that he knew the day I was born that I wasn’t his daughter. He told me my father was a black man and that he was a good old white boy. His exact words. This was the catalyst that made me decide to explore my ancestry at the age of 29.
When my results came back, I discovered I am 47 percent African descent and 52 percent European descent. No trace of Native American. I am still on a mission to find my biological father.
Zenger: Did this factor into your motivation to begin painting, and has your work in any way served as a therapeutic method of channeling toward inner peace and serenity?
Mudge: Art is the only thing that gets me out of myself. I am able to quiet the noise and transfer everything I feel and think from my head and my heart to my canvas. Art is a form of expression. I try to not make it a form of opinion.
The tree painting represents the bloodline of where I came from — and that our voices are finally being heard regarding the violence inflicted by law enforcement. I decided to leave the piece untitled. It speaks for itself.
Another piece near and dear to my heart is a painting I’ve done on Dianna Ross. Everybody has their icon — Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. They’re mainly white women. So where was my icon of color? Diana Ross. I actually began to style and pattern my hair after the way she did. I really appreciated her beauty. I truly admire her creativity and the impact she has had.
Zenger: How has your spiritual foundation influenced your decision to become an entrepreneur?
Mudge: Spiritually, I want to do what I love and get paid for it — and that is an artist. Paid because I need to make a living to survive. However, art for me is not about the money.
Painting my experiences and connecting with others through art has allowed me to discover who I am and what I want to be in my career. Spiritual healing is the benefit of the work I do.
Zenger: Has Kimberly been supportive?
Mudge: I can’t begin to tell you how much of an infinite inspiration and support my partner Kimberly has been. Kimberly is the voice of reason. Anytime I have been defeated or thought I should give up, she stepped in, telling me that it takes work to make dreams come true and to keep pushing forward.
Kimberly has been there by my side the entire time. Becoming the sole breadwinner, so I could pursue my dreams. I wouldn’t be where I am without Kimberly.
Edited by Judith Isacoff and Fern Siegel
This story first appeared on Zenger news