The Beast Boutique
The Beast Boutique has been performed five times. Twice in France and three times in the United States. This next year it will travel to Paris, Puerto Rico and Aisa.
The Beast Boutique was born out of Jennifer Avery’s Artist Residency with the Hermès Foundation. As the first American artist chosen for this prestigious program, Avery collaborated with seamstresses from Hermès and their fabric printing facilities for four months and created 300 performative objects from opulent gold, silk, cotton and fleece fabrics printed with her drawings, photocopies, and repurposed trash from Hermès.
Beast Boutique deconstructs “Little Red Riding Hood” and merges the personalities of Little Red, Grandmother and Wolf into one body – a patchwork of fragmented identities that inhabit an architecture that is both forest and boutique, and oscillates between selling her dolls (an act of prostitution / commodity / pleasure) and creating them (an act of passion / auto-eroticism / necessity). Both acts critique and celebrate the performance of femininity and Eros simultaneously.
In medieval manifestations of the fairytale, the Wolf asks Little Red if she will follow the path of pins or the path of needles to Grandmother’s house. According to ethnographer Yvonne Verdier, this phrase reveals a passage of time marking the liminal space of child to woman. Young girls would spend three months with local seamstresses to learn the art of sewing and the performance of femininity and Eros. The metaphor for this transformation was “gathering pins.” While pins mark the path of socially approved expressions of female sexuality, needles imply a wanton maturity. Imagine the gesture of threading a needle through its “eye” in English or “cat” in French, the rhythmic repeated piercing of fabric with needle and thread, and the euphuism seamstresses mutter when they accidently pierce flesh and draw blood (“aii, j’ai vu le loup!” ,“oh, I saw the wolf”, “ouch, I lost my virginity”).
As she walks through the forest of paradox and feminist action, will our heroine choose the path of pins or the path of needles?