Bold Faced: Artist Ashley Longshore’s colorful portraits are the focus of LASM’s 60th anniversary gala

“The next thing I know, I’m having tea with Diane von Furstenberg, talking about Hedy Lamarr and Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg.”

So recalls New Orleans multimedia artist Ashley Longshore of the day she answered an unexpected email in 2018, agreeing to a London meeting with the iconic fashion designer about a collaboration for the DVF flagship store in New York City. The proposition went something like this: In the vein of Longshore’s unapologetically pop art aesthetic, could she possibly paint a series of 37 portraits of various sizes featuring some of the most famous women in the history of art, science and activism—oh, and could she get them all finished in the span of two weeks? 

The resulting “Mighty Women” exhibition—also the subject of Longshore’s 2021 book Roar!—eventually caught the eye of the Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s interim curator Tracey Barhorst and interim assistant curator Beth Welch, who had just begun planning the museum’s 2022 diamond-themed 60th anniversary gala. Barhorst, a self-described Longshore fangirl who once visited the artist’s show in Bergdorf Goodman with her daughters, agreed with Welch that Longshore’s colorful, celebratory art would make a glittering focal point for the gem-themed festivities. When marketer and event planner Lexie Polito agreed to co-chair the gala alongside Ann Connelly Fine Art co-director Chelsea Norris and Studio Annex founder Adrienne Connelly Adams, Polito revealed herself to be yet another longtime admirer of Longshore’s work (read more on that here) and the choice suddenly seemed like divine approval. A request was made, and Longshore—who had spent about a year living in Baton Rouge early in her career and frequented LASM’s galleries—heartily agreed. 

“Now more than ever, it’s important to know not just these women’s incredible accomplishments, but also how they dealt with adversity,” says Longshore, who has gone on to meet and even befriend some of her portrait subjects, from Gloria Steinem to Iman. “Personally, I need to be surrounded by these women; I need them in my life. So the fact that LASM was excited to hold this big celebration and include these magnificent women just makes me really happy.” 

Of the ever-expanding series, museumgoers can expect to see 29 paintings selected for the exhibition that will accompany the gala, with portraits divided into four main categories: Women Shaping Culture, Women Making Discoveries, Women Creating Change, and a “salon wall” that invites viewers to sit down and immerse themselves fully in the stories of the women on display. Out from these painted faces peer the pensive eyes of Anne Frank, the floral confidence of Frida Kahlo, and several other changemakers from the past who may not always have been appreciated for the complexities of their gifts. 

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