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Columbus Makes Art Presents Avery McGrail and Fabricated Magic

Margaret Wunderlich Margaret Wunderlich Columbus Makes Art Presents Avery McGrail and Fabricated MagicFabric artist Avery McGrail.
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Avery McGrail’s Fabricated Magic is on view from Dec. 14 to Jan.7 at Wild Goose Creative’s temporary location in the 400 West Rich Bridge Gallery. We chatted with her about her work.

Margaret: Hi Avery! Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did art become a part of your life?
Avery: I grew up in Delaware, Ohio, about 30 minutes north of Columbus. My parents are both creative people, my mom actually ended up working as a ceramicist for most of her career. I think art has always been a part of my life because I was encouraged to see the value in it. My parents nurtured any creative interests I had growing up, helping feed the constant need I had to make stuff. So they were very open-minded and supportive when I decided to go to school for art at The Ohio State University because they knew it was possible to thrive in a creative career. Once I got to school and started meeting more working artists, it really solidified that making stuff was important to who I am. For me, it’s about continuing to be thrilled to work on the next project.

Margaret: You work with a lot of fiber and mixed media right now. Has this always been your medium of choice?
Avery: I actually went to OSU for painting and drawing, and I really thought watercolor and paper collage was the medium I’d work in forever. I’d been doing sewing projects and embroidery on the side for fun, mainly out of felt and repurposed fabric. I had a lowkey interest in sculpture and art objects while I was in school, but I didn’t think it pertained to painting in any significant way. It wasn’t until I went to PAFA in 2018 for a summer residency that things sort of exploded for me.

Avery McGrail puts the finishing touches on a piece.

I realized that working with fiber was actually helping me communicate my ideas better than painting was. I then started making these sculptures out of craft-felt that were representations of real-life objects, some of it trash and discarded items. They started to feel more alive than the collages I was doing. They were created centered around this idea of showing care, and representing items that translate love and attention to others, and that collection of small felt items became my BFA thesis work.

Margaret: What concepts and conversations are you exploring with your current body of work?
Avery: My current work is a bit more experimental for me as I’m trying out new processes and forms, but I feel like the concepts have remained sort of consistent. I am really interested in physical manifestations of care and representing complicated feelings. I think working in fiber and soft sculpture lends itself to softness and squishiness, and a general vibe of comfort. Quilts and stuffed animals also give off the feeling of gifting and generosity, common gestures of care. I hand stitch most of my work and the stitches show a physical marking of time passing and my labor being recorded. For me, that combination of time and attention translates to love.

Margaret: When did you first start participating in events at Wild Goose Creative? What are some of your favorite things about the Columbus art scene?
Avery: I’ve participated in Wild Art Columbus twice and I’ve been attending exhibition openings as much as I can. I love that the Columbus art scene appears to be growing and innovating. Organizations and galleries like Wild Goose really believe in the artists they’re promoting. I also like that there’s a variety of work to enjoy here, from more contemporary conceptual work to craft work to somewhere in the middle like me.

Margaret: 2020 has been a uniquely challenging year. How has art been there for you during this time?
Avery: Honestly, it’s been rough. I thrive on structure and when we went into lockdown and I was home all day for weeks, I lost my sense of routine and that wiped out my motivation to make work. I was frustrated that I had been afforded time to work, but the general feeling of panic and loss just undermined that completely. I really had to fight to get myself in the studio and make something happen. I ended up in a good place, but it was just hard to shake the fear off.

Avery McGrail in her studio, working on a fabric piece.

Fortunately, my practice involves a lot of repetitive actions and soothing time intensive processes, so focusing on how my work can be meditative and transformative has helped a lot. Also, I think embracing the silliness of my work has lightened the mood a bit and let me escape for a minute. I don’t think I’ve ever had a low quite like this year, and I know a lot of people went through a similar issue. There’s nothing quite like making art during a global pandemic.

Avery McGrail’s Fabricated Magic is on view from Dec. 14, 2020 to Jan. 7, 2021 at Wild Goose Creative’s temporary location in the 400 W Rich Bridge Gallery.

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Learn more about local artists, organizations and events at ColumbusMakesArt.com.

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