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Work Samples

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La Béte: Fashion Show
La Béte: Fashion Show performance/mixed media/textiles La Béte Series


Anchorite: Procession performance/mixed media/sculpture Anchorite Series

The Beast Boutique: Floral Shoppe.png

The Beast Boutique: Floral Shoppe performance/mixed media La Bête Series


Nana and Her Teapot performance/mixed media/sculpture Courtisan Series


About Jennifer

Baltimore City - Station North A&E District

Jennifer Avery's picture
Jennifer L Avery  (Vinegar) is a scholar,  a curator, a sculptor, and the artistic director of The Ergot Players .  Vinegar was the first American to become an Artist in Residence for the Hermès Foundation in France. They are married to the painter James Allen Swainbank. They cut their teeth in the alt/cabaret movement of the most recent fin et debut de siècle ,  received thier Associates degree in Fine Art from Bristol Community College... more

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?


This is my dream book about the architexture of poetic space.

It is quite long, and you may read it here:

Arch(i)Texture “ is limited edition real/eBook exploring the architectures of poetic space or the haptic and liminal relationships of internal and external constructions of home, body, sex, death, religion, dream, decay, ruin, ornamentation, travel, community, childhood, mythology and mortuary sculpture. It consists of twelve chapters: 1. We where so grand in the fish gut Versailles 2. Light: the cathedral and the museum 3. Ornament: the brothel 4. Dilapidation as staunch characters 5. The lost chapter: Carriages, steamships and Baba Yaga 6. (delirium)Doll House Replica copy copy copy scale 7. Threshold: Public Private Internal 8. An Intervening Chapter 9. And there is a grid: Children’s Games 10. Of the Ribcage, frame, and incorruptible corpse 11. Corruptible space 12. Chapter on Lines 13. Facade: the labyrinth, the surrealist house


Anchorite is a multi-media performance art piece by Jennifer Avery. Exploring notions of home and sanctuary, Gesamtkunstwerk studio practice, personal mythology, femininity and childhood Avery will recreate the abode and practice of an medieval religious hermit. If home is where the heart is, what is a place that is heart soul and body? Anchorite Has been performed twice.

Historical Background of the Anchorite:

The anchorite's was one of the most extreme of the religious lives of the middle Ages: it inspired awe in contemporaries, and has held a morbid fascination for modern observers. It was a life of strict and irreversible enclosure, entered into in an elaborate ceremony during which the last rites were administered, and at the conclusion of which the door to the reclusory would be walled up. An anchorite who left their enclosure could be forcibly returned by the authorities, and faced damnation in the hereafter.

Is an intensive studio practice a contemporary Anchorage? What are the connection between a home and tomb?

Both men and women embraced the anchoritic life. However, women outnumbered men throughout the period — perhaps because of medieval prejudices concerning women (whose unruly bodies needed to be kept under strict control), or perhaps simply because the range of religious vocations open to women was more limited than that available to men.

Is an anchorage a feminist action?

The cell or reclusory was most often sited adjoining the parish church. A narrow window or “squint” looked into the church, and afforded the anchorite a view of the altar. A second window opened on the outside world (often into a parlor) and allowed the anchorite to converse with visitors. Some “cells” had several rooms; some had gardens attached to them.

Is the gallery a church? Is the gallery and/or church a home?

However, the solitary life of the anchorite could not be lived alone. A servant was required to bring food and remove waste, and to attend to visitors. Aelred of Rievaulx, who wrote an influential “Rule” for anchorites advised having two: an older woman, for her sober influence, and a younger, to do the fetching and carrying. Material support had to be in place before the authorities would sanction enclosure: anchorites had, therefore, to be of independent means. They were also the recipients of alms and grants from all levels of society, from the king down to their fellow parishioners.

Is anything possible without money and friends? Is a sex-worker that different from a religious hermit or artist? What happens when art and pray are commodities?

In return, anchorites gave themselves entirely to prayer and meditation — interceding for the world and patrons, and occasionally (like Julian of Norwich) touching the heights of contemplation — having chosen, like Martha's sister Mary, “the better part”.

Does the anchorite/artist have a choice?

A few words from Avery on the artist as a contemporary Anchorite:

The artist as a medium or the artist is the medium.

Is the artist a portal do the unconscious and divine, or is the artist the work of art herself?

I did not choose to make art, I have to make art. I spend many hours alone in my studio, touching/getting touched by “the divine.“ I consider it my second home. I carry a portable studio in my pocket book, and instantly feel at home whenever I take out something to sew- subways, glamorous parties, beaches- oh anywhere. With the sweet understanding of my partner we have converted my home into a series of rooms that serve my art practice, from libraries to instillation living rooms to a costume room. Not even my bedroom is safe as the sewing pins and rose petals in my bed can attest.

My practice is my life. My practice is my home. My practice is my sanctuary


This work became an instillation of objects and video, and quite possibly my first “painting,” as a result of research into historical and cultural places and practices, and their future possibilities. This is an example of my personal practice of educating in alternative methods and making connections across broad topics. This project also encouraged my curiosity and passion for Public Humanities through conversations with docents and cultural programmers at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. I am inspired plan to emulate their programs and practices in my work. Lighting this work for documentation was exceptional difficult and something I need to work on.

Over the summer I had the honor and the pleasure of researching, exploring and experiencing rural cemeteries up and down the east coast of the USA thanks to the Hugh Townley Travel Award. Every year the Visual Art Department awards these funds to a junior or senior for enrichment of the student's pursuance of their career in visual art through travel. This research continues to inform my Senior Honors Thesis, an mélange and queering of Snow White heavily referencing hysteria, pansies, and turn of the century mourning rituals.

To evoke my bodily experience of my research I recommend experiencing this work sprawled/squatting on the floor in the center nook. I consider this work a painting. The sound element of this piece was recorded in the field (or, um graveyards) and the carousel museum in Bristol, CT.

I am grateful and wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Visual Art Department at Brown, my dear friends, colleagues, and lovers who made exhibition possible, and you the “viewer.” I welcome your questions, comments and concerns.

I am obsessed with rural cemeteries and the rural cemetery movement of the 1800's. These places appeal to my sense of sublime romanticism and paradox. Every detail of these burial ground are planned and constructed to guide the visitor or mourner on a emotional and physical, wistful and melancholy experience from winding paths on and around fabricated hills and ponds, to exact placements of monuments and horticulture. These macabre and beautiful places were created to appear natural and ancient, yet are anything but. They are paintings/needlework come to life as much of the landscape and monumental sculpture was inspired by the "fantasy" mourning art often executed by surviving children and women. They are ornate pastoral fabrications.

There are no documentaries on Pansies. I have looked and looked and at least I can find no free ones on the Internet or references to any. Pansies are my favorite flower. The French call then thoughts. It is still vogue to place porcelain pansies in Pere Lechaise, the massive instigator of the rural cemetery movement. These pansies are larger than life (or is that death?) and the only change in style is how broken or moss covered they are. The language of flowers is rich with symbolism. Color and code. Cemetery pansies are most often maroon and purple. They all have little faces that cry or roar or scream, rather feline like. And of course our English word for pansies is a paradox implying weakness, particular of the queer and feminine variety as these little variants of violets are among the hardiest flowers, with a tolerance of freezing temperatures. And all this despite forgetting their sickly sweet smell to so they could remember how to make a giant silky display of petals.

My work, my finished work, is never static. I reuse, recast and harvest parts. The archive is fluid. The arrangement of a finished piece is usually dictated by the space and conditions of its exhibition, very much instillation and experience. A dear friend made the observation that this practice of mine is very much like floral arrangements with their natural chaos and symbolism. I am very much interested in ornamentation, affect, and decoration as essentials.

According to Doctor Natalie Alder hysteria marks the presence of traumatic memory that arouses bodily symptoms treated psychologically by translating feelings into words. Feminist scholars have treated it as a “deviant, desirous language.” Hysteria crosses the boundaries of pain and pleasure, madness and lucidity, personal and political. The word is derivative of the womb. The Greeks imagined the womb floated about the body that made its vessels irrational. I am seduced by the abject glamour I find inherent in my personal bouts of hysteria and its invention by doctors and artists. Perhaps more than anything else I am interested in empathy. I like to feel haptically, corporeally and emotionally. I have found the experiences of opposites aids this experience. There is nothing more rational than the sisterhood of cemeteries and carousels. Circles, cycles, ups and downs.
Absurdities, contradictions, opposites, amuse and frighten me-things whimsical and macabre/ glamorous and rotten/ strong and vulnerable / natural and artificial/ grotesque and ordinary/ erotic and innocent: strict Victorian decorum and ferocious punk rock dances. Cartoon Bronzes. I like things in the uncanny realm of attraction and repulsion. I also like to laugh and play. This project, much my body of work is personal response to the problematic erotics of a female aesthetic and death, and thus both a celebration and condemnation of socially constructed performances of gender, femininity, and mourning.

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Jennifer's Curated Collection

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