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Jennifer Vinegar Avery: A Pretty Paradox

"Pupa, Poubelles et Les Bêtes/ The Beast Boutique." 2014-2018. Photo by Jennifer Vinegar Avery. Made with the support of the Foundation d’enterprise Hermès.


by J. Fatima Martins

Jennifer Vinegar Avery is an intellectually formidable artist; the joie de vivre and zaniness seen in her art is not contrived entertainment. The name itself, Vinegar, is not a moniker — it’s real, and is a push-back against the “sugar and spice and everything nice” cliché applied to girls. “Clap your hands and say, Jennifer,” she wrote, “clap your hands and say Vinegar, it’s the same thing! A pretty paradox. Avery means wisdom of the elves and it lends itself to emphasis and intensity.”

At the time of this writing, Vinegar was living her usual duality, perfectly blended: joy (luxury) and sorrow (imperfection). She was invited to install and perform the theatrical piece “Pupa, Poubelles et Les Bêtes/The Beast Boutique” at the Maison Hermes Le Forum art space in Tokyo, Japan, scheduled for summer 2018.

While reveling in the honor, she was also mourning the death of an artist friend/collaborator and the interruption of her own work. “I had to cancel the Berlin half of my European tour because my dear friend, the sculptor Ian Brown, passed away,” she explained. “Ian was my husband’s (James Allen Swainbank) best friend and we are immersed in grief. Ian was a key player in the creation of an art sanctuary/collective we’ve started in Winsted, Connecticut in a beautiful decaying mansion. We are creating a place for experimental and passionate explorations and collaborations. Come play, it’s going to be magic.”

Vinegar’s primary magical mode is a materially layered (maximalist) installation. She approaches the work formally as a painter, sculptor, clothing and interior designer, and performance artist, calling the process Witch Craft. She explained, “My primary mode is performance and Witch Craft: the objects, the costumes, the installations, the soundscape, the words, the audience, are all players and components of the spell. When I was small, I had an obsession with creating elaborate funerals from the meals I stole from my cat friends, including coffin, casket, procession, and monument. I still practice that playful macabre homemade magic.”

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