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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30 APRIL 2019 SchoolArts L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G ARTIST Q&A SchoolArts: When did you first realize that art was what you were born to do? Jennifer Avery: I have always loved garbage DIY witchcraft. Some of my first hobbies were making funeral processions for dead mice, dresses for cats, and shabbily elaborate theat - rical productions inspired by cartoons and romance novels. I only started focusing on art about seven years ago. Before that I was a punk bassist, then a CNA in a nursing home. SA: What are some of the biggest influences on your work, including other artists, events, or things outside of the arts? JA: My work comes from turning pain and tragedy to joy and beauty; it's a healing process. I adore Louise Bourgeois, Paul McCarthy, and Rachel Maclean. I also work from fairy tales, personal identity/mythologies and the concept of feminine labor, or "women's work." I love paradox and con - tradictions, like grotesque glamour, whimsical macabre, and all forms of attraction/repulsion. SA: What is a typical work day like for you? JA: I play! I destroy things, I put them back together... SA: Do you have specific strategies, rituals, or routines that help you and/or generate ideas? JA: One thing I love to do is go to libraries and randomly pull out books and look at them. I love music, history, and fashion. SA: What is the role of your support community? Assistants, art dealers, collectors, art critics/journalists? How do you develop this network of support? JA: To be honest, it is mostly good timing and luck. I find it is better not to focus on these things and put that energy into creating work. I really only make work for myself out of a near compulsion, and I am honored and flattered when it vibrates with other people. Better to work-work-work, play- play-play than court dealers, critics, and so on. Just be a kind and thoughtful and daring and curious person, and work! SA: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself as an emerging artist? JA: Never apologize and have more confidence. SA: You work in a wide variety of media, from performance to textile design to sculpture. Do you see them as separate processes or part of a single body of work? JA: I recast many of my works in different pieces, so perhaps they are all chapters in a non-narrative book. SA: Your recent pieces, such as The Beast Boutique, are immersive, multilayered, and packed with visual information. How do you plan such complex pieces, and how do you know when they are ready to exhibit? JA: There is no stopping point, only deadlines. The pieces always change and grow. SA: You have earned some prestigious residencies and awards in your relatively short career. How have you been able to accomplish so much? JA: I suppose I am just a witch born under a good sign. I am stubborn and passionate; I think crits tend to be a waste of time (unless they focus on building each other up rather than tearing each other apart). I follow my guts; I work and play hard mostly because I enjoy it. DISCUSSION Begin by showing students a still image from The Beast Boutique. Explain that this is a contemporary artwork that combines many different media, art forms, and ideas. Place students into groups to discuss the images and try to identify all of the different art forms and media that they see. Have each group share their findings with the class. Discuss their answers and add any missing pieces discussed in the article above. Then show students several more images of Avery's work. Ask: • How do you think the artist begins creating a piece like this? Does she start with an idea? A drawing? A sculpture? • What story do you think is happening in these images? What kind of emotions do you see? • What role do you think the audience plays in these art- works? What might it be like without them? STUDIO EXPERIENCES • As a class, work together to choose a fairy tale or other story that everyone knows well. Brainstorm ideas for an interactive artwork inspired by the story. Choose different jobs such as designers, sculptors, writers, actors, etc. Transform your artroom or another space in your school, then invite teachers and students to view or participate in your event. • Design a costume based on a character from a fairy tale, folktale, historical event, or local legend. Use fabric, paint, and other two- and three-dimensional art materials to bring your character to life. Then choose two or three actions that your character will do. Wear the costume and perform these actions or work with a classmate as your performer. • Think of a story, poem, song lyric, quote, or event that has special significance for you. Why do you find it meaningful? How does it connect to your identity or understanding of yourself? Starting with this as your inspiration, create an artwork that combines multiple artforms and processes. Document your artwork and invite others to view or participate in it. Written by Karl Cole, Art Historian and Curator of Images at Davis Publications and Robb Sandagata, Digital Curriculum Director and Editor at Davis Publications. RESOURCE

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