Ashley De Silva grew up in Mt Lebanon, attended the University of Utah and did post-graduate studies at the University of Miami and Carlow College. After initially studying psychology, she realized her true passion had always been the arts and she became an art teacher. Since 2005, she has completed more than 25 murals in the Pittsburgh area, as well as projects in Miami and Mexico City. After taking a hiatus to raise Avie, 6, and Estelle, 3, Hodder recently reentered the art scene with two high-profile murals, one on the historic Hollander building in newly revitalized Braddock and the other in Pittsburgh’s Allentown section at the crest of the hill on Warrington Avenue. She, her husband, Andrew De Silva, and their daughters live near Jefferson School.
How did you become painter of large murals? I have always felt the calling to be an artist! I was an art teacher for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, then started working with a summer mural program for kids. Once I helped paint one wall, I was completely hooked!
Why do you feel public art, murals or other forms, is important? I feel that public art and murals are vital to our community, because it then becomes a part of daily life. You don’t have to plan to see it, or buy a ticket to see it—you just turn a corner, and there it is, an unexpected surprise!
What is the process you go through before you actually start painting a mural? When I’ve been requested to create a mural, the biggest part of the process is the initial stage. Before I begin painting, I spend a good amount of time at the actual site. I walk around the area and look at the wall—really just STARE at it, thinking about it. Then I can see what it is I want to do.
Is your mural painting informed or influenced by any other artists? My art is influenced by so many talented artists—where to begin? Wayne Thiebaud was one of the first to influence my painting—I am so struck by the way he uses color! I was very fortunate to have lived in Paris, and I spent a good deal of time viewing the many art museums and master art works. Although I love classical painting, I also love street art—the freedom and expression of it, the anything-goes nature of it, and the contrast between these two art forms.
Do you make or enjoy other sorts of art? I also enjoy creating other types of art, including some installation projects; I see myself moving more in that direction in the future. One of my favorite projects was putting a living-plant wall on a construction-site fence, also using construction-cones as planters. My intent was to provide a more tolerable experience, maybe something just a little more beautiful to look at, for those commuters held up by traffic congestion in the construction area. They were stuck there anyway—why not!