Artwork by Ashton Carless
Profile by Amelia Anthony
I have enjoyed and exercised the privilege of knowing Ashton Carless for years now. He can be frequently seen in action at Carrows or in the art room where he takes AP Studio. To get him talking, ask how good kid, m.A.A.d city compares to To Pimp a Butterfly or ask what he despises most about the US Government. (It’s money in politics, which makes him also a fierce Bernie Sanders supporter.) He spends most evenings creating art and listening to vinyl. His favorite movie is Birdman, his happy song is “Goodnight Ladies” by Lou Reed, and he gets more sleep than any other teen I know.
Ashton’s style is unique and hard to parallel, but sometimes his brushstrokes are reminiscent of those of Van Gogh’s lesser-known ink and paper illustrations.
He also draws inspiration from pop-art movements of the 1980s and 90s, specifically from work of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He likes the impressionist/expressionist movements too, less concretely and more because of the way emotion is conveyed.
Ashton has mentioned before how he sees the world in lines, and it never ceases to amaze me how he can take a complicated or round subject and deconstruct it into a crisp ink drawing. His style has matured and grown cleaner, each marking drips with purpose. His view of the word is cheekily cynical.
Last summer, Ashton and I both took classes through CAPSA downtown. We spent mornings wandering around Bunker Hill and Ashton frequently gave money to homeless people who asked. His concentration for that period was treatment of the homeless. His was the most serious and articulate set of artwork at the culmination show by far.
“I draw the homeless because I’m angry. I’m angry because they are on the streets. I’m angry because our government fights helping them. I’m angry because they are the ones who need help the most, yet are the ones denied it the most. I’m angry because a disproportionate amount of minorities and transgender individuals are homeless. I’m angry because men and women who have fought for our country, who are mentally ill because they have experienced what no one should ever have to, are put out on the streets because they don’t get the help they need.
I want people to see them not as part of the scenery, not as a waste of our tax money, not as a hopeless cause, but as the human beings that they are. I want my art to do the seemingly impossible task of opening people’s eyes to this huge issue.”
He also likes to paint, and created the piece below for an application. He spent several weeks referring to the painting as “the bane of my existence.”
MORE ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Ashton Carless is 16 and attends South Pasadena High School.