Artist Ashley Thompson-Steuart embraces change

Ashley Thompson-Steuart exhibits Season of the Changeling at Soft Box Gallery on Alcazar Street, St Clair.  - ANGELO MARCELLE
Ashley Thompson-Steuart exhibits Season of the Changeling at Soft Box Gallery on Alcazar Street, St Clair. - ANGELO MARCELLE

Life, like people, continually changes and artist Ashley Thompson-Steuart, 35, is continuing to learn about herself both personally and professionally.

Her personal journey to rediscovery is expressed in her first solo exhibition outside of a school environment, Season of the Changeling.

She explained the title was inspired by the lyrics of the song King by Florence and the Machine which says, “But a woman is a changeling, always shifting shape; Just when you think you have it figured out; Something new begins to take.”

Ashley Thompson-Steuart can not remember a time when she was not interested in art and painting in particular. - ANGELO MARCELLE

To Thompson-Steuart, the collection of 16 paintings of oil paint on canvas is very personal.

She told WMN for the past three years many people went through a unique period of their lives. During that time she became pregnant, had her first child, River, two, and became a mother in a very isolated environment.

She described the experience as an extreme shock to her system as, during the first year of her son’s life, her life revolved around him, especially since there was nowhere to go and family members were afraid to visit in case they brought covid19 into the home.

“It just felt like emotions were heightened, we had to slow down and we experienced everything a lot more intensely and fully. I wasn’t able to work throughout most of it (pregnancy). But I started to write when I had some time to help process everything I was going through and to feel more rooted in what I was going through.

“When I did get back to the canvas I had a lot of ideas of where I wanted to go.”

As she became acquainted with the new version of herself, she painted. Therefore, her work in Season of the Changeling is very different from anything she did before. She now cares less about what other people think so she put aside “safe landscapes that other people could relate to” which freed her to paint what she wanted.

Ashley Thompson-Steuart is continuing to learn about herself both personally and professionally. - ANGELO MARCELLE

There is a nostalgic feel of the environment she created in the paintings as they feature plants that used to be common in people's yards, wrought iron chairs and archways inside the home. There are also many recurring shapes and objects since she painted at home during lockdowns with no real change in scenery.

They include a circular stained glass window in her home, a traveller’s palm in her yard, and writings she inscribed into the oil paint.

The text includes some of the writings from when she was not able to paint or things she felt as she painted, and the traveller’s palm she planted it at “a difficult time” in her life.


“Now it’s huge. It towers over our house. To me, each leaf that grows builds a ladder towards the sky. It speaks to the resilient spirit of people and nature – how things grow over time and change. Sometimes we’re scared of change but it’s a beautiful thing.”

Thompson-Steuart said they all tie into how closely a woman’s historical role is tied to home, part of which is her family. And so the figures in her paintings represent her family – herself, her husband Logan Steuart, and River.

She said River helped with or had input in some of the pieces. For example, when he scribbled in colour pencil on one canvas, she followed his lead with the colours and strokes.

“He loves seeing the process and hearing about it. He asks me why things are where they are. That was special to me, probably the best part of making this body of work.”


Thompson-Steuart said she could not remember a time when she was not interested in art and painting in particular. She studied art for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exam in 2004 at Holy Name Convent and placed first in the country. She went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in visual arts, communications and a minor in psychology at the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota from which she graduated in 2010.

When she returned to TT, she started working in advertising, which she did for three years. Unfortunately, she did not have the time or energy to paint much during that time. So, in 2014, realising advertising was not for her, she decided to pursue art as a full-time career.

“It just did not feel like I was the right fit for it. I wasn’t able to be creative in the way I really wanted to. I needed to find the right path for me.

“I’ve always been a reserved person. I need that time by myself and I feel it’s when I feel most confident expressing myself. It is just part of me. The years that I did not paint, it felt as if something was missing.”


At the time she did calligraphy for weddings and a few commissions but after leaving the ad agency, she started providing art lessons. She recalled that her grandmother, who she described as an open-minded and free-spirited person, was a big support when she decided to leave advertising.

Soon the opportunity to teach art full-time presented itself and, as it was so fulfilling, she eagerly accepted the job. She is now an art teacher at Dunross Preparatory School.

“Teaching is a vocation. It’s so fulfilling. Children have such uninhibited creativity and this inspires me on a daily basis. There is an honesty in their artwork that I try to get back to when I am in the studio – an unlearning of sorts.”

That honesty factored in to her newest work which she hopes people appreciate.

“I hope that people, not just women, could find things they can relate to, their own personal experiences of being isolated but also when they could slow down and take things in and experience things differently.”

Season of the Changeling began on May 5 at Soft Box Gallery on Alcazar Street, St Clair.


"Artist Ashley Thompson-Steuart embraces change"

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