Ashley Benton was born in Atlanta “a while ago,” and lived there her entire life until moving to Savannah in 1986 to attend SCAD. In 1990, she graduated with a BFA in painting, and within a year had returned to Atlanta. However, she soon found that locale “too familiar” and “needed a change.”
Change came in the form of Colorado, where she spent the better part of the next two decades. Having recently moved back to Savannah –the place she’d “always considered home”– she’s been based here for several months. Her work has been added to the permanent collections of both SCAD and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, and several galleries across the country carry her pieces.
She also just completed an invitation-only 10-week stint in SCAD’s highly coveted Alumni Atelier Ambassador program, which is held at their tiny campus in the tiny, rural, 400-person commune of Lacoste, France. “They flew me there, gave me a place to live, and a medieval cave to use as a studio,” Benton gushed. “Plus, I was paid an honorarium and able to sell work I was making to visitors from all over the world. I also drank a lot of rosé, ate cheese and swam in the Mediterranean Sea. It was an amazing experience – every artist’s dream.”
Bored with painting early on, Benton turned to mixed media, plaster, wax, resin and collage work. Later, she studied sculpture and now concentrates on ceramics. Notably, she’s finally been able to give up commuting back to Atlanta three days each week to teach yoga. “I am currently a full-time artist, sans side-hustle,” she said with a smile.
Benton considers her son (who’s now studying fashion at SCAD) her “biggest work of art, project and accomplishment.” She is also learning to play the mandolin, and hoping to return to France as soon as possible. Anyone interested in her art is invited to follow her on Instagram at “abentonarts,” or via her website: ashleybentonstudio.com. Folks may also visit her personal studio at the Stables complex (off Louisville Rd.), where most days she can be found working.
I imagine everyone hikes a good bit in Colorado. What’s the farthest you’ve ever hiked? “Not sure, but I did ride my bike 500 miles across Iowa in July. I did it for a boy.”
Most enjoyable musical concert you’ve ever attended? “The Allman Brothers at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Co., several years running. Very good times.”
Ever permed your hair? “Yes, no shame. First time was when I was 17. I might be ashamed to admit how long I continued perming my hair. My mom and dad got perms, too.”
One Savannah establishment you remember fondly from the ‘80s and ‘90s that you really wish was still around? “Jim Collins Bar.”
Bunnies, cats, dogs or horses? “Bunnies.”
Three favorite TV shows when you were a kid? “‘The Electric Company,’ ‘Scooby-Doo,’ ‘Lost in Space.’”
One book you’ve recommended to numerous people throughout your life? “‘Confederacy of Dunces’ by John Kennedy Toole, seems to keep coming up. But I’m not good a choosing one thing ever. I might change my mind.”
One type of art you’ve always been interested in but never tried? “Playing drums. Is that considered art?”
The single best thing studying yoga ever did for you? “Anger management.”
The single biggest misconception about yoga? “That it’s easy.”
Ever had a nickname – including one that you hated? “If I tell you, it may resurface. So I won’t.”
What do you already miss most about France? “I think all of it.”
More important to you: a comfortable mattress or a comfortable pillow? “Pillow – which was not in France.”
Mediterranean or Asian food? “Mediterranean, but I can dig on some green curry as well.”
One musical or spoken word artist you’d gladly drive cross-country to see in person? “Patti Smith.”
Three visual artists whose work inspires you most? “The drawings, paintings and sculpture of Louise Bourgeois; the paintings of Francis Bacon; the sculptures of Alberto Giacometti.”
Ever injured yourself doing something foolish on a dare? “I’ve done a lot of foolish things. Hopefully no one was injured.”
Hot cocoa or iced coffee? “Iced dirty chai.”
One question you hope your son never, ever asks you? “Can I have a gun?”
One question you really wish your son would ask you? “‘Will you take me to get my driver’s license?’ He’s 20.”
Each week, 20 Questions features a different noteworthy figure of the local arts community in a quick Q&A session curated by veteran writer Jim Reed. Read more at dosavannah.com.