Ashley Stoker, who goes by the moniker Fox Marie online, is a self-portrait photographer and painter who also uses handmade jewelry and occult imagery in her artwork. She became active on Tumblr in 2011, and her sometimes-NSFW blog, Hipporacle, has thousands of followers. In 2012 she was given a Houston Web Award by the Houston Press for Best Tumblr.
What She Does "For my self-portrait photography, I build off making a headpiece or a mask," she said. "I had always put together little masks as a kid and taken pictures."
"I became active on Tumblr in January 2011. I didn't really understand how to use Tumblr at the time. I worked in the library at St. Thomas University and would post funny book covers."
Eventually, through the use of clever tags on her posts, her audience grew.
"I found out about so much art and pop culture just by putting my tentacles out there. It's a well of inspiration for me."
She began selling her jewelry on Etsy to make ends meet. In the spring of 2011, she quit work to move to Austin to take care of her father, who was dying of cancer. He died on Mother's Day of that year.
"I still had college loans I had to pay off. People were really supportive on Tumblr."
More recently, she's been experimenting with oil paintings, and is now selling those on Etsy. She says the paintings are more cathartic to make than the jewelry.
"With the paintings, I'm the boss of that. It's on my clock," she said. "Maybe I'll go back to making jewelry, but if I do, it'll be metalworking."
Why She Likes It "It's my escape," she said. "It's my little paradise. I think a lot of people might like racquetball or going to Galveston for the weekend. This is what I do."
"It's been very therapeutic the last few years. I'm a very emotional person, and it's a place to purge. The art is a manifestation of that purging, but Tumblr is like a lazy way of keeping a journal."
What Inspires Her "Sex, death and rebirth," she said, adding that her father's death has very much influenced the art that she's making now. It's where her obsession with the occult and mysticism comes from. Among the images she uses most in her art are the Eye of Providence, moons, runes and bones.
"My mother was raised Catholic and my father was Christian. Dad was a Mason. He was very high-ranking, but it was very secretive. He had all the regalia. I just like the fact that he had something that was his."
Even her nom de plume is metaphysically inspired. Marie is her middle name, and she said the fox is somewhat of a spirit animal for her.
If Not This, Then What? "There is no other 'what,'" she said. "I already did all that other stuff. I am focusing on art now. After my father died, I realized what was trivial."
Stoker says in her past lives she worked in hotel management and hospital administration. She said she did a lot of odd jobs while taking care of her dad.
"None of it really fit. None of it gave me the pleasure that art does. People always put down art. I just knew I had to do it."
During the days, Stoker works as a barista at Inversion Coffee House, which leaves her evenings free to make art. The shop is connected to the galleries of Art League Houston, and Stoker says even her day job inspires her.
"The well never goes dry at a coffee shop."
If Not Here, Then Where? Stoker grew up in Rancho Viejo but visited Houston a lot as a kid with her father, who was being treated at the Medical Center. When her parents moved to Austin to be closer to her sister and medical treatment, she moved to Houston. She's been here since 2008, except for the short amount of time she spent caring for her father before his death.
"There's no stagnation here," she said. "When I talk to fellow artists, they just all have the same reverence for Houston."
"I've never traveled overseas, though, so I'd like to do that. I'd like to visit Sweden. I have friends who live there and I can see why they're making such beautiful art."
What's Next "I've always been creative," she said. "But I didn't know about galleries or residencies. I've been pretty hermetic since my father died. But a very important part I've learned about art is face-to-face networking."
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She said now, on her evenings off, she's focusing on going to gallery openings and meeting people.
"I want to find a residency," she said. "I would love to see what that would produce."
More Creatives for 2013 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer Danielle Burns, art curator Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker Amanda Stevens, scary book author Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger Ana María Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach Billy D. Washington, comedian Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer Kelly Sears, animator and film maker Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director jhon r. stronks,dance-maker Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer Jordan "Monster Mac" McMahon, artist, designer