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An extensive group project drawing on – and extending – the skills of Hermès artisans leads to a double narrative explored in a solitary performance work. Invited by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès to work in situ at the Hermès silk and textile workshops, artist Jennifer Avery experienced a residency made to measure – by hand.
31-year-old American artist Jennifer Avery incorporates visual and performance art in her work, exploring her fascination with Gothic novels, and her radical feminist politics, while at the same time embracing traditionally ‘feminine’ media and skills – a paradox exploited and fuelled during her residency at the Hermès silk and textile workshops in Bourgoin-Jallieu (France). Avery met artist and teacher Richard Fishman – her mentor for the programme of artists’ residencies from the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès – while studying visual art at Brown University in Providence, in the United States.
At the Hermès couture workshops, Jennifer Avery collected off-cuts and fabric remnants as her raw materials. Working with Hermès artisans – who were given carte blanche to cut, stitch and assemble the fragments – Avery has created a corpus of figures (Pupa, Poubelles, Bêtes or ‘Pupae, Trash, Beasts’) incorporating fabrics, photocopies, papier mâché and other recycled, cast-off elements. Avery staged the resulting bestiary in an abandoned shop, and a forest setting, in compositions reminiscent of a dolls’ boutique. Two solitary performances saw the artist playing shop-keeper, watched and recorded by a photographer. The photographs and ‘dolls’ are the only record of this intimate, closing narrative.
Each year since 2010, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès has invited young visual artists mentored by leading personalities in their field, to engage with exceptional artisan skills and materials at the Hermès workshops. The programme of artists’ residencies includes a period of immersion at the workshops, followed by a feasibility study for the resulting project, leading to the creation of a new work in association with Hermès artisans.