“America is undergoing an identity crisis right now, but we have the power to determine what we want our country to be,” says LA-based illustrator Ashley Lukashevsky about the politically minded images she’s been crafting for the likes for Broadly, Amplifier, and Refinery29. Tackling topics such as the Dream Act, NRA back-handers and police brutality, Ashley’s illustrations inspire you stop scrolling and start fighting, but are also fun and packed with positivity.
“Once I started to illustrate as a reaction to the crises unfolding in the US, I realised that my art was resonating with people who were going through difficult times with this administration,” says Ashley. “Artists can amplify the experiences of people who are being marginalised in this country, and draw attention to pressing injustices. If I could encourage someone to continue resisting, for there are so many of us, it made me feel like I was doing something to help power the resistance.”
Through her Instagram, Ashley rallies people to take their activism offline through calling their elected officials, joining physical demonstrations and following important activists who are on the ground (such as Undocumedia, Brittany Packnett, Shaun King, Tamika Mallory, and Linda Sarsour). “I want to ensure that my illustrations are not just momentary feel-good moments,” she says. “Yes, I want to foster hope and encouragement, but liking a photo on Instagram does not create change. With every drawing that I post on an issue, I include a tangible action to take for the viewer. My hope is that people will take action beyond their screen.”
Often the act of drawing will help Ashley clarify her own feelings about a subject as she distills a complex and multilayered subject into a simple and memorable image. “Illustrating around the issues in my heart is therapeutic for me, and creates space for me to process my emotions about the topic at hand,” Ashley says. Following the recent high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Ashley drew senator Marco Rubio as a vampire accepting NRA blood money out of anger and frustration at politicians valuing their wealth and power over the lives of their constituents. “I need to think critically about how to best interpret an issue for public consumption, so that what I am representing is inclusive and well thought out in terms of representation,” says Ashley. “For example, when it comes to an issue like gun control, I also don’t want to be an artist who only advocates for gun control when it comes to white lives.”
Ashley’s portfolio is not just political but inclusive and celebratory. From her voluptuous women to gorgeous non-binary folk and strong undocumented immigrants, it’s clear that her characters are empowered and really feeling themselves. For much as the current political climate can be crushing, the movement of people willing to fight back is growing. “One silver lining is the lack of fear and outspokenness of artists and activists right now,” she adds. “All aspects of self-censorship out of courtesy have dissipated, and people are not afraid to express their values.”