The French Connection
Depending on the time of year, artist Asya Colie contemplates two vastly different views from her studio. In France each summer, the windows of her country house in her native Provence frame a sprawling sea of gardens and vineyards. But come late autumn, she finds her inspiration here in the Blue Ridge Mountains that spill endlessly away from the sun-drenched rooms of her new home.
“I’ve found my element in Asheville,” she says in a heavily accented voice. Born to Algerian parents, Colie is also fluent in Arabic. “It’s the colors,” she states, seated at her kitchen table gesturing toward the mountain vista. “No, in Provence we do not have that. While we have vineyards, kilometers and kilometers forever, it’s the colors here—red, yellow, orange—really beautiful.”
Drawing on her surroundings, Colie’s efforts in the studio are straightforward, charming, and approachable, like the artist herself. While an Asheville series is forthcoming, currently her work falls into two categories: small-scale paintings of the Provençal region and a series of large-scale portraits of women’s faces, often collaged with an overlay of transparent gauzy fabric.
The landscapes, acrylic on canvas, exhibit a fine fluid line and a deft hand at representational drawing. They are soft and ethereal, evoking the atmosphere of the idyllic countryside they represent. In contrast, her Les Visages Voilé (Veiled Faces) are boldly colorful and semi-abstract. Each painting features a different face confronting the viewer with a direct gaze or eyes slightly averted.
It’s no surprise that the inspiration for the face series comes from a professional life spent in the world of high fashion. In Paris, Colie worked as a showroom model for designer Karl Lagerfeld and for the fashion house Escada. Many of the clients were wealthy Middle Eastern women eyeing couture gowns from beneath burkas. These repeat customers carried their treasures home for private women-only parties, where they shed their veils and wrapped themselves in elegance.
Also in Paris, and later in Miami Beach, Colie styled hair for salons such as Toni & Guy, and worked behind the scenes at fashion shows. “Much like a sculptor, I created beauty around the human form…. I had a good time,” she recalls with a laugh. It was a natural transition to the world of fine art.
Colie enjoyed the cosmopolitan life in Miami, but when her husband, James, took early retirement, the couple and their son, Ilyas, moved to Asheville. Here, Colie continues to find inspiration in the colorful landscape and people. Her latest series of portraits, Le Jeunesse (The Youth), is an ode to the enthusiasm and strength of struggling, young local women, and will be on display in Asheville through October.
25 Carolina Ln., Asheville