James Ashley was born in Ouray, Colorado and studied at the Herbert Institute of Art in Augusta, Georgia. He also received private instruction. He exhibited in group shows at the Carnegie Institute in the 1940s, and was one of ten selected for the Carnegie's "Popular Award" in 1947. He reportedly had a one-man show in San Antonio, Texas and was represented in the private collection of Mrs. Force of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
According to Mary Hard Bort's History of the Southern Vermont Arts Center, Art and Soul, Ashley joined the Southern Vermont Artists in 1941, the same year as Norman Rockwell. He lived in Dorset and was a close friend and student of Dean Fausett. He became director
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