Fall into the Ozarks at Southern


Victoria Gaytan

Grant Stebbins, sophomore graphic design major views Ashley’s piece “Persimmon Tree” at the reception on Monday, Nov. 4, in the Spiva Art Gallery on Missouri Southern campus.

Victoria Gaytan

As the weather cools and fall approaches, persimmons rain down from their tree. They must, because they were still on the tree when Michael Ashley saw them before he went to bed at night, and come morning, they littered the ground, as any fruit does. 

While Ashley did not witness it himself in the night, he can still imagine how they looked suspended in the air, between the tree and the ground. 

Persimmons grow in the Ozarks where Ashley is from. These fruits and other experiences in the Ozarks are the focus of his solo exhibit “Fall in the Ozarks.”

Ashley is an associate professor of art at College of the Ozarks. He has bachelor of arts in painting and ceramics from College of the Ozarks, an MFA in ceramics from University of Mississippi. 

He did a one-year pottery residency at Tainan National University for the Arts, and he has taught at Missouri State University, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, and Tyler School of Art Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. 

Ashley describes himself as a maker. Creating is how he take information from the world. Many of his works stem from his nostalgic memories of growing up in the Ozarks. 

In his studies as a ceramicist, he liked the metaphor linking rivers to the kiln, where pottery is fired. 

The annual changes brought a variety of colors that Ashley described as beautiful. 

He glazes his ceramic pieces to reflect those colors of the environment of the Ozarks, from the persimmons to the rivers.

He was interested in the rivers that he grew up around because they changed annually. Floods and draughts created erosion and cracking and a variety of colors that happen on the bluffs. 

After moving away from the Ozarks for school and work, recently, Ashley returned to the Ozarks as an assistant professor of art at College of the Ozarks. 

Returning to the Ozarks brought back memories for him and allowed him to return to the places that had been a significant part of his life, both growing up and in his art. 

“Fall in the Ozarks” includes a variety of works in different media, including ceramics, monoprints, digital prints, and painting pieces. 

“When I was thinking about this show…I wanted to have that connection to work that I like but to have a 

connection to the place where I 

came from.  [I wanted to] build something from myself,” Ashley said. “The work that I’m interested in is from all over

 the world.” 

He said he likes a variety of works, such as prints from Europe, Japanese pots from the 1400s, Chines pots, among other things. However, he doesn’t want his interests to dictate his work to the point where he is copying others’ works. 

“I try to find something that I can relate to, to kind of approach that work in a different way. There are rivers everywhere in the world. Even in the desert, it rains at some point and there are rivers.

“The things I’m in interested [in] are things that all generations and ideas can connect to. It’s just that I have to have some sort of a seed from my life that I can add to it,” he said.

“Fall in the Ozarks” is open to the public, and it is located on Missouri Southern campus in the Spiva Gallery. There is no admission for the gallery. The gallery is open 9-5 p.m. The gallery doors are closed, even when the gallery is open, so everyone can come in.