Art and painting open doors for SDSU grad student

by Nicole Sazegar, Senior Staff Writer

Ashley Fenderson sat on the phone in frustration venting to her violin teacher. It came down to three majors to choose from — linguistics, music and art — and she was already in her junior year of college. As she continued to rant about how difficult it was to choose just one, her teacher stopped her and said, “Ashley, pick one and run with it.”

At this moment, Fenderson decided that art-making would be her career choice.

Fenderson is currently in her second year of San Diego State’s Master of Fine Arts program for painting.

When Fenderson was younger, her mom saved up for watercolor classes for her, and because she took those seriously, she added art as another one of her passions. Fenderson was finally driven to choose art as her career choice when she realized she could dedicate a vast amount of time to just drawing and painting.

“What really pushed me over the edge for art was that I couldn’t practice (anything else) for more than an hour at a time, but I could stay up all night drawing and painting,” Fenderson said.

While Fenderson chose to attend SDSU because her husband was offered a job in San Diego, she is grateful for all of the opportunities she has received here.

“I think the biggest opportunities that have come because of SDSU is this willingness between the administration and faculty to work with the students to raise the visibility of the arts on campus, which I think is really cool,” Fenderson said.

Fenderson was part of the team that painted the new mural in the Love Library. She also worked on a mural for “Rethink Downtown: Behind San Diego’s Skyline,” an architectural and design exhibition downtown. She also did an interactive mural for TED Talks.

Despite these achievements, Fenderson hopes to utilize the entrepreneurial center on campus to help achieve her goals and plans.

“Being an artist is kind of like being an entrepreneur in a lot of different ways — being self-motivated, having specific goals and plans,” Fenderson said. “Even when you partner with non-profits or begin school, there is always that part of your practice that stays independent, so it’s good to know how to manage that.”

Fenderson also chose SDSU because its graduate art program focuses more on creating art than just learning about art, like her undergraduate program at UC Irvine.

Fenderson is grateful to learn from professors who have really honed in on their craft.

“Being around people who take so much pride in their ability to create something and manipulate all of these raw materials to make something that is not only functional, but also incredibly beautiful, has inspired my work,” Fenderson said.

Fenderson hopes to utilize all of the experience and knowledge she gains at SDSU to start a non-profit that facilitates art residencies at churches. She plans on reintroducing contemporary art back into a religious context.

Fenderson believes part of being human is being creative, whether it is in painting or even cooking. She believes art gives a place personality, and thus, her involvement in art has shaped her personality and has made her more self-reflective.

“Nothing in the art world is certain,” Fenderson said. “You really have to think about what you like, what you’re doing, what you’re trying to say, who you’re trying to say it to and whether or not it’s true — sometimes it’s not and that’s OK. (Art) pushes you to think about every single decision you’re making sometimes, or at least what to put on the wall and what to put in the trash.”