Using Art As A Way to Connect

Taking art classes at her local community college was a bucket list item for Ash-Bob (BFA ‘19).

After spending three years living in Western Australia and working for a non-profit, she returned to her hometown in Northern California to start checking off a list of must-do activities.

“I enrolled in beginning painting because I had no idea what collegiate level art classes were like,” she said. “I went and took the class, found I could paint and that I was pretty good at it.”

That first class led to the path of an Associate’s Degree in Studio Art, but she still wanted to learn more.

“I am a big fan of community college. Community access to education, in general, is important and it's a huge benefit to society.”


  • Ash-Bob (BFA '19) in the studio.
    Ash-Bob (BFA '19) in the studio.
  • In the studio of Ash-Bob (BFA '19).
    In the studio of Ash-Bob (BFA '19).
  • Ash-Bob (BFA '19) works on a piece in the studio.
    Ash-Bob (BFA '19) works on a piece in the studio.

After spending 3 years out of the country, Ash-Bob initially wanted to stay in California to pursue art. She started looking for a BFA program in San Francisco, the closest city to her home base in Redding, California.

“I found a lot of programs that were focused on ideas and conceptual work, which is actually what I’ve been doing lately,” she said. “But I do believe in having a variety of tools and skills because then all of the decisions in your work are made purposely. Every omission is important and isn’t made out of lack of ability.”

Her art teacher and PAFA alumnus Andrew Walker Patterson (MFA '07) encouraged her to look east and leave home again.

“I came to PAFA because I knew they would train me how to do things that other schools didn’t care about.”

When she arrived in Philadelphia two years ago, Ash-Bob expected to focus on figure painting because she’s always seen art as a way to connect with people.

“People can connect through art beyond any cross-cultural, economic, or political barriers,” she said. “People from all different walks of life want to see things like the Mona Lisa. There is a connection there that I find significant and important.”

For Ash-Bob, the connection she makes with other people is more significant than the work she produces, and whatever she makes is a way to connect.

Even though she expected to be a figure painter at PAFA, the desire for connection and to share with others ending up pushing her towards abstraction.

In Ash-Bob’s abstract paintings, she says there are no secrets. Viewers can tell exactly where her brush landed or pencil crossed a canvas.

“I had a really great critic, Meloko Mokgosi, who said abstraction is a puzzle,” Ash-Bob said. “You have to find the little pieces. It can get confusing because as obvious some of this stuff is, it’s also meant to make you say, ‘Wait a second or what’s happening?’”

As she prepares for the Annual Student Exhibition (ASE), Ash-Bob hopes museum visitors will take a moment to linger over her artworks and make a connection.

The ASE has been a tradition at PAFA for more than 100 years and is the culminating event in a student's journey at PAFA. Each spring, 3rd and 4th year Certificate students, along with 4th year BFA and 2nd year MFA candidates have the opportunity to curate, install, and sell their own works in the PAFA museum galleries.

PAFA students create more than 1,000 paintings, sculpture, works on paper and installations. It is one of the most celebrated student group shows in the country. More than 100,000 visitors will attend the ASE, and sales of student's works are expected to reach $300,000. Students retain the majority of the purchase price of works sold.

The ASE is free to visitors through the run of the show, Ash-Bob says it is important for art to available to as many people as possible even though she knows art can be expensive.

“I’m interested in making art for everyone but I fully understand that it is very hard for most people to buy it,” she said. “I’m also in favor of accessibility of education in that way because it's a way to share yourself and your art too.”


The 118th Annual Student Exhibitions opens May 10, 2019.