Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tao Te Ching: The Art Edition with Natalie Avondet

by Sarah Harford

Whenever I talk to another artist, the conversation usually involves how late we had to stay up or the hidden innuendos in the imagery that we used in our most recent pieces for advanced studio classes.  However, fresh out of undergrad and writing my first artist interview as an Intern for Art Saint Louis, I recently found myself inquiring St. Louis area artist Natalie Avondet as if she were my future self. Her artwork, That’s My Thing, featured in Art Saint Louis’ current exhibition "Under the Influence," was the basis for our conversation regarding mood, writer’s block and other hobbies besides art.

Natalie Avondet, That’s My Thing. 2011. Acrylic with Glaze, Silver Leaf, Varnish on Canvas, 18”x24”.

After looking at the artwork, the first thing that came to mind was the length of time needed to complete the piece. I asked Natalie, “Do you have any perceived notion before creating?” And in the most calm informative manner, she informed me that she usually starts out putting something on the canvas and simply goes from there, adding and subtracting by applying layers that work together and also stand alone. “I like subtlety but I also like the clash between feminine and masculine. Taking something soft and subtle and combining it with something a little more rugged and then, sitting back and watching how the two complement each other is very soothing to me."

When you look at this painting, you see both horizontal and vertical brushstrokes. There are some dry brush in some areas, some heavily layered parts with saturated color and then there is an area of silver leaf. It is interesting for me, because there is a sudden juxtaposition between the application of paint and the application of silver leafing. Dry brushing versus glue application seems to work well here. Especially since the focus of this piece is the rustic application of the silver leafing, something we familiarly see with antique furniture or frames. However, the element unexpectedly goes well with the crime-scene tape orange bordering the more subtle brown and green shapes.

I am a firm believer that titles for artworks work in mysterious ways. Even as an artist who holds a degree, I still don’t have a formula or a method of contriving a title. So this issue led me to my next question for Natalie: "Why the title?" I kept thinking about sandwiches, because the forms in the piece are literally sandwiching each other, so I was trying to connect that with her title, That’s My Thing. "Do you like sandwiches?" "No," the title, Avondet claimed, simply came from her husband’s choice of the song “That’s My Thing” by Elvin Bishop.

Natalie Avondet. Follow Your Soul. 2012. Mixed Media on Canvas with a High Gloss Finish 32”x32”.

For me, as an artist I feel as though I sometimes I strive to look for the most complicated ways to create work. Is it to show my endurance as an artist or is it an excuse to work longer until I can say what it is that I am finally trying to convey in the first place? Either way, sometimes creating work and talking about work can just plainly drain you of all energy. Which is why the next subject under discussion was artist’s block. In the same calm manner, she assured me that she certainly has encountered the illness with no excuses. Of course, how could I ask something so inevitable? It made me realize that I just got out of college and pretending that you are on top of your game to your peers and to your professors was just everyone’s way of trying to look calm and collected when really we were all freaking out. Natalie gave me the same advice that my fiber arts mentor gave years ago when I had a bad semester, "Just start working on something." You don’t have to create a masterpiece today or tomorrow, you just have to create something. “I am constantly experimenting and learning. I think that is important as an artist and as a human being.”

All of Natalie’s pieces share a similar process due to the artist’s concept of what she believes to be a painting. If you haven’t noticed already, Natalie gives us three dimensions in the sizing of her pieces. Since she includes the emergence of the painted canvas from the wall, this immediately makes a statement about the layers of the painting being included both separately and all together as if you can comprehend one on its own. Conceptually, these layers reflect each new day, memory, smell, or experience so that the piece itself can offer the audience a different and fresh meaning at any point in time that they choose to perceive it.

Natalie Avondet. Follow Your Soul. 2012. Mixed Media on Canvas with a High Gloss Finish 32”x32”.

Natalie Avondet earned her Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Colombia. She then started working for the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, California. In 1999, however, Natalie traveled to Frankfurt, Germany to expand her experience in the fine arts in the "Frankfurt Art Faire." After moving back to the Midwest, Avondet was featured at the Apex Gallery in Kansas City’s renowned Crossroads Art District in 2008 and 2011. Soon thereafter, Natalie was featured in multiple venues and galleries in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

She currently is signed with a publishing company that sells her works in originals and prints throughout the country as well as internationally. You can find and purchase her works through sites such as and and d├ęcor pieces at Spiegels and JCPenney. She works hard to market her artworks in as many ways as possible. Natalie and her husband now live in St. Louis where she continues to be a prolific artist and is also a well-disciplined yoga teacher. In addition to her work currently on view at Art Saint Louis, Natalie's work will be featured in "Figure It Out," a group exhibit at Clayton Fine Arts Gallery, 21 N. Bemiston Avenue in Clayton, MO, opening with a free reception 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, September 27, 2013. "Figure It Out" remains on view through November 11.

Talking about art with Natalie Avondet was a strong and refreshing starting point as a new Intern in the art world. Further into my career, I see myself problem solving with other artists so that both whom I am conversing and myself may benefit from shared philosophies. I may stick to my intricate processes or my tiny mark making, but one thing for sure, I know that I am supposed to make art and that art will happen from me or another artist at various points in the fabric of time. It might not be a masterpiece but it is art nonetheless.

"Under The Influence" is on view at Art Saint Louis through 5 p. m., Thursday, October 10, 2013. Gallery is free and open to the public Mondays and Saturdays 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays and holidays. Art Saint Louis has a NEW Gallery and cafe, Mississippi Mud Roasters located in the Gallery at 1223 Pine Street, St. Louis, MO 63103. 314/241-4810.

Sarah Harford earned her BFA in Studio Art from Truman State University (2012) and is currently serving as a Fall 2013 Intern at Art Saint Louis.

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