Asya Zahia Colie is a figurative, portrait, and abstract artist who divides her time between Asheville and her native home of Provence, in the south of France. She worked as a showroom model in Paris for Christophe Lemaire, Cristian La Croix, Escada Laurel, Karl Lagerfeld and other iconic ’90s designers before moving to the United States. Her acrylic and mixed-media paintings are heavily influenced by both the natural world and the high-fashion scene.
When did your love of art and fashion intersect?
My mother was really good at drawing, and she was a designer who made wedding dresses at home with colorful thread and sequins and flowers. She had lots of beautiful fabric — I remember this blue velvet. When I was eight or nine, I’d sew the sequins. I was very involved in wedding dresses, and plaster.
Plaster and fancy wedding dresses? That sounds hazardous.[Laughing] — Not at the same time; the plaster was when I was older. My brother does plaster work on old buildings and I used to help him. Sometimes I mix plaster in my paintings, for the texture.
What else do you use?
I like to use my hands. I use a lot of brushes, but hands are more familiar for me. They are more direct.
Have you taken art classes?
Only pottery. I took classes here and it was inspiring and fun. I painted Josephine Baker on a small platter and Edith Piaf’s face on a big bowl. You use a special paint. But you have to bake it and wait so long, so then I started doing big paintings and also went to abstracts.
How has living in Asheville influenced your art?
All these colors, like in the fall. You go for a hike and see giant colorful trees; it’s a rainforest. You think, “Oh, look, I think I will use that color.”
You forage for colors and bring them back to your studio?
Yes, or edible mushrooms. The connection with nature and what nature gives you to share is number one.
Yet you paint flowers that look unnaturally black.
Summer black. The Parisienne says, “Navy blue is summer black.” Flowers are always pastels, but I like to create with strong colors like dark blue. I don’t want it to be boring.
You also paint faces with surreal colors and eyes that aren’t symmetrical or the same color.
I love to do abstract on portraits and faces with extreme colors. I like funky abstract. I want to mess it up. My mother said “That’s Asya, she always wanted to do something messy!”
But your portraits still convey so much beauty and lively
I always start with the eyes. I put a lot of expression inside the eyes so it’s really strong, and almost like they are alive. I want you to wonder what she’s thinking and what she’s looking at.
Asya Colie’s exhibit Fleurs will show at ananda hair studio (22 Broadway in downtown Asheville) through Sunday, January 6. For more information, including studio visits by appointment, e-mail the artist at email@example.com or see asyacolieart.com.