When Ashton Hall — the featured artist for the exhibit running through February at the Marie W. Heider Center for the Arts — was younger, she was not a fan of the color pink.
“I wasn’t a ‘girly girl’ — I didn’t wear pink or even like it,” Hall said. “I rebelled against all purples and despised blue.”
As a high school student at La Crosse Central, Hall dressed in black, red and yellow. She says those bold hues defined her — even if her peers and adults didn’t accept her style. “They asked me over and over, ‘Why do you wear black all the time?’” Hall said.
After graduating from Central, Hall earned a degree in graphic design from Western Technical College, but then decided to pursue her passion for fine art.
Since 2005, she’s exhibited in group and solo shows around the Midwest as well as curating themed exhibits at the Rochester Civic Theatre.
In 2016, Hall was named an Artist in Residence at the Historic Horlock House in Navasota, Texas. Last fall, she opened her own pop-up gallery (A.E.H. Gallery) on St. Andrews Street in La Crosse. Hall considers herself a fauvist artist — one who uses vivid colors, expressionist technique and impressionist tendencies.
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For this new show at the Heider Center — entitled “Pink, Purple and Periwinkle: A Love Affair” — Hall decided to challenge herself by using the “feminine hues” she disliked as a kid.
“I never liked societal norms, but I used these colors in a different way to re-describe what they meant to me,” Hall said. In the end, the process was a revelation.
“I fell in love with these colors and I used them in an enthusiastic and contemporary way,” Hall said. She’ll be bringing 14 of her pieces to the new show at the Heider Center.
In addition to Hall’s abstract images, the exhibit will display the work of Steven and Donna Leis of Sparta in the gallery’s cases.
The couple became serious about the Norwegian decorative art of rosemaling in 1980. “We took a class offered by WWTC at Sparta High School,” Donna said.
Asked how she’d explain rosemaling to someone who had never heard of it, Donna pointed to an origin with flowers. “It’s like flower painting,” she said. “We do flowers and scrolls and then finish them off with line work.”
They display their rosemaling in craft shops in places like Viroqua and Coon Valley. They apply a decorative finish to all kinds of items. “We’ve got plates and jewelry and cards, plus my husband will have a violin he decorated,” Donna said. That violin is not for sale, but many of the other items in the show will be.