SchoolArts Magazine

APR 2019

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 27 J E N N I F E R " V I N E G A R" AV E R Y CO N T E M P O R A R Y A R T I S T L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G Jo ful Chaos J ennifer Vinegar Avery constructs elaborate installations that combine sculpture, textile art, performance art, relational (or interactive) art, and audience participation. This approach reflects the blurring or outright removal of boundaries between media and art forms that exemplifies cutting-edge contemporary art. However, unlike some con - temporary artists, Avery rejects pretention while embracing humor, playfulness, and a chance to create a joyful chaos. Energized by Performance Avery considers the objects, performances, and interac- tions with the audience as essential parts of each piece. Her installation sets are like giant, three-dimensional still- life works that are energized by performance, audience par- ticipation, and locale. In these pieces, she acts as painter, sculptor, costume and set designer, and participant. She also frequently collaborates with her husband, James Allen Swainbank. Avery's performances are also historically well-informed, many of them derived from traditional fairy tales and mythology. She investigates the evolving perceptions of gender roles, aging, and identity by turning traditional stories on their head and asking the viewer to interpret the possible messages. In The Beast Boutique (see centerspread), a deconstructed Red Riding Hood, she com- bines the characters of Red, grandma, and the wolf into one fractured identity. The richly decorated set emulates both forest and resale shop. Avery's thought-provoking performance-installations earned her the honor of being the first American artist to achieve artist-in-residence for the Hermès Foundation in France. The Beast Boutique evolved from that collaboration. The artist designed and produced 300 performance costumes and objects out of Hermès' luxury fabrics. They were printed with her drawings, photocopies, and repurposed trash. Addressing Issues through Installation Avery's perfomative installations have a complexity and personal narrative aspect seen in the static installations of artists such as Mary Sibande (b. 1982 South Africa), and Yinka Shonibare (b. 1962 British/Nigerian). While differ - ing in conception, these artists all address personal issues through elaborately costumed installation in forms that are highly individual. In complexity of personality and costume, Avery's characters resemble the riveting, multifaceted, and gorgeously costumed characters of Japanese Kabuki theater. About the Artist Avery graduated from Brown University with an honors concentration in visual arts after attending Bristol Com- munity College in Fall River, Massachusetts. She has received a large number of fellowships and honors for her work, including residencies in Paris and Tokyo and has exhibited her work at museums and galleries in Japan, France, and the Eastern United States. Jennifer Avery, The Fainting Room: A Period Piece, 2017. Photo by Winnie Gier. Image courtesy of the artist.

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