During the last semester of her senior year at Redlands, Ashley Wright ’18 was struggling with undiagnosed complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) and decided to try something new: She took a painting course—her first—with Professor of Art Munro Galloway. She was on the cusp of earning a bachelor’s degree in music, but painting helped her see a different artistic path to explore.
“I instantly fell in love with that class, and it challenged me in a way that I hadn’t been challenged before,” says Wright, a Redlands native and the first in her family to attend college. “I truly felt happy creating art again, and I haven’t stopped painting since.”
Just three years later, Wright was selected as one of two featured artists in a Redlands Art Association exhibit on display Sept. 18 through Oct. 9, 2021 (215 E. State St., Redlands).
“My mission is to show the beauty of C-PTSD through dreamscape art,” she says. “I explore what it feels like to experience dissociation, depersonalization, derealization, and maladaptive daydreaming—dissociative issues are what people with C-PTSD struggle with... In a way, I’m relaying my inner world for all to see.”
Her vibrant, colorful, and highly textured paintings often capture local landscapes infused with a pronounced 1980s and 1990s nostalgia, she says, reflecting sci-fi and pop cultural motifs, colors, and shapes.
“As a Southern Californian, the natural surroundings and terrain are home to me,” she says. “Each location I paint is a location I have been to, thinking, dissociating, and daydreaming. They became my safe places while I was struggling most.”
This year, a collector in Finland bought one of Wright’s paintings and commissioned another. She was also invited to join a global salon hosted by the Menduina Schneider Art Gallery in San Pedro, California, and has had work in the Los Angeles Art Association’s virtual exhibits and the association’s summer 2021 User to User show. Most recently, she was selected August 2021 artist of the month at the Helping Others Purposefully Evolve (more widely known as H.O.P.E.) Wellness Studio’s Healing Art Gallery in Redlands, which offers support for mental health challenges and personal enrichment.
While her art practice has helped Wright with her C-PTSD journey, she is most concerned with reaching others: “I want them to know there is hope, beauty, and safety within yourself, even though your mental health may be tugging you in another direction.”
Learn more about studying studio art at the University of Redlands.