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Ray of Light

CAA Senior Prepares to Leave U of I Enlightened

Moving to Moscow from Hawaii to attend University of Idaho was a shock to Ashleigh Streiff’s system. She found almost every aspect of living in Idaho different than life in the Aloha State — even the sunshine.

While figuring out how to capture light on the Palouse, she also realized she found a place to call home.

Streiff, who will graduate from the College of Art and Architecture (CAA) with a B.F.A. in Studio Art and Design in May, specializes in a painting method called “en plein-air,” a French phrase for painting on location outdoors. A lot of her time on campus was spent outside the classroom – not only to hone her artistic skills but to discover more about herself.

“Light is always the first thing I notice wherever I go,” she said. “I still haven’t quite figured it out because the light here is so different than in Hawaii, but I’m always discovering little things that help me get closer. When I think of my artwork, I compare it to trying to find where I belong. I get closer to putting it all together every day.”

Painting of trees with red leaves in front and green in back.
Moscow: Through the Leaves

Sunrise in Moscow

Streiff has called many places home. Born and raised in Maryland, she lived in Germany, North Carolina and Hawaii before moving to Moscow.

The list of colleges she’s attended is almost as long: Central Carolina Community College, Honolulu Community College and University of Alaska-Anchorage, just to name a few.

She found U of I in Fall 2022.

“I came here because I was looking for the right fit,” Streiff said. “Of course it helped that I was able to find scholarships, like the Western Undergraduate Exchange scholarship, but the smaller size of the Art & Design department helped me get to know the professors and I really felt like this was the right place for me.”

One of the professors who noticed Streiff was Casey Doyle, associate chair of the art and design department.

Casey Doyle

Art & Design Department Associate Chair, Professor

AAN 307


I wanted to tell my story of being in Moscow. I needed to understand my own identity while confronting the loneliness of coming here and not knowing anyone. But ultimately I found what I was looking for. I found a home.Ashleigh Streiff, senior

“In only her second semester on campus, I saw she had a real energy around her,” he said. “She had a presence – a light that attracted people around her.”

Doyle asked Streiff to help revive the Visual Arts Community, a CAA club that went dormant during the COVID-19 pandemic. She agreed, setting up group shows, workshops and social events as club president. After stepping down from that leadership position this year, she remained involved by mentoring the new president.

Strieff found additional ways to make herself at home on campus, including volunteering for the Vandal Jacks, U of I’s Logger Sports Club. She even donated a painting and a print to be raffled off to raise money for their competitions. 

Last Fall, she was awarded the U of I Alumni Excellence Award for outstanding academic achievement.

Four people posing for camera, with two holding certificates.
Assistant VP of Alumni Relations Amy Lientz, CAA Professor Casey Doyle, Ashleigh Streiff and U of I President Scott Green at Alumni Excellence Award presentation.

Sunset in Moscow

But the main reason Streiff came to Moscow was to paint. As someone who started drawing at age two and took art lessons as a child, she fully embraces the concept of practice leading to improvement.

“Ashleigh is fantastic at looking at her own work critically,” said Aaron Johnson, assistant professor in art and design. “She accepts feedback and instruction, even if it’s not always complimentary, because she knows it will ultimately help her create her vision.”

A big part of Streiff’s vision comes from research. When she first came to Moscow, she spent hours walking around the campus and the city taking pictures and observing how light reflected off buildings and the ground.

“I work a lot from photos,” she said. “I make connections with photos that remind me of different shades of light and different angles. I use those to re-create a moment or memory.” 

Another way Streiff prepares for a painting is to see how light affects the different colors she’s encountered on the Palouse. 

“Capturing light here is hard,” she said. “You’ve got green rolling hills, there are browns and yellows all around and the light reflects off of them differently. On campus especially, it’s such a wonderfully challenging place to paint.”

Painting beautiful U of I scenes may be difficult, but Streiff has accepted and excelled at the challenge. Her paintings gained the attention of U of I President Scott Green and his wife Gabriella, who have two of Streiff’s works at their home, as well as the City of Moscow, which purchased her painting “Morning Greeting the Hello Walk” last year.

Another part of Streiff’s research is studying the works of past artists. Among her favorites are the impressionists — which include famous painters like Monet and Van Gogh but also less well-known figures such as Berthe Morisot.

Like impressionists who painted themselves into their work, Streiff created a series of self-portraits when she first arrived in Moscow. She did this partly to figure out how to paint the landscape around campus, but also to figure out exactly how she fit in the picture. 

As she prepares to graduate, she’s able to celebrate her two years on the U of I campus and reaffirm her decision.

“I wanted to tell my story of being in Moscow,” she said of her self-portraits. “I needed to understand my own identity while confronting the loneliness of coming here and not knowing anyone. But ultimately I found what I was looking for. I found a home.”

Painting of a woman at an easel with a palm tree to the right and an oak tree to the left.
The Time Between – a self-portrait showing Streiff reflecting on her time in Idaho while looking forward to going back to Hawaii.

Article by David Jackson, University Communications and Marketing

Photo by Garrett Britton, University of Idaho Visual Productions and courtesy photos from Ashleigh Streiff

Published in May 2024

Campus Locations

Physical Address:
Bruce M. Pitman Center
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264

Phone: 208-885-6111

Fax: 208-885-9119