Tamera Avery: Hell’s Valley
MARCH 23 - APRIL 25, 2019
OPENING RECEPTION: SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 5:00-7:00
Jen Tough Gallery, a contemporary Bay Area gallery located in the historic Benicia Arsenal, is pleased to announce the solo exhibition of gallery artist Tamera Avery titled, Hell’s Valley. Avery, who lives and works in San Francisco, recently was awarded first place in the prestigious Crocker-Kingsley competition. Her recent exhibitions include Split Screen, with Deborah Oropallo and Andy Rappaport at Gearbox Gallery in Oakland, The Summer Show and Art Santa Fe with Jen Tough Gallery, along with New Lands and Wild Things, both San Francisco popups.
In this series of brave and almost human-scale self portrait paintings, Avery places herself in the ponds of Hell’s Valley, an area of rugged cliffs and sulfurous hot springs in Japan, where Macaque Monkeys enjoy steamy baths. This series of revealing and highly personal works defy the cultural norm of invisibility for middle-aged women. Avery’s series challenges the viewer to gaze and explore her constructed narratives, evoking a level of discomfort while seemingly stating, “I am here”.
This will be the first solo exhibition for Avery at the gallery, and will run through April 25, 2019.
Excerpts from an Essay by John Seed:
Tamera Avery is an artist whose uncompromising paintings project and re-contextualize her personal fears and social concerns. By including herself and her children as subjects—often in dreamlike and evocative contexts—Avery makes works that are both relatable and paradoxically tender. Because Avery’s technique is grounded in the tradition of Realism, the multi-faceted narratives she paints have a bracing, hallucinatory clarity. The end result of this approach is a flow of brave and confrontational images that demonstrate the artist’s commitment to artistic fearlessness.
Avery’s Hell’s Valley paintings are deeply personal works rooted in self-portraiture. They respond to the death of her father and to their tough relationship. “We re-connected before his death,” Avery explains, “and attempted to make peace. As we did this it I had to recognize that many things I had once held to be true were false.” The settings for this series include glimpses of Japanese snow monkeys, who the artist had been incorrectly told were a matriarchal species. The series is set in a cold, semi-abstract world of snow that offers little possibility of comfort.
As a metaphor, the surrounding landscapes suggest the confusion and desolation that women can feel when their “usefulness” fades in middle age. Appearing once—and sometimes twice—Avery wears a fur cape that both protects and reveals. Although the paintings are very clear in their style, the meanings they generate are left unresolved. In that lack of emotional clarity there are possibilities and Avery’s themes are left open for other women to relate to. Her job has to bring a tough set of uncertain emotions forward and let them resonate.
What Avery seems to be discovering is that she can tell stories in a way that can gain the interest and respect of her viewers. Once that respect is gained a dialog is created and the questions will begin to flow. “What is going on here?” and “What should I be feeling?” are two that often leap out. With more inspection, there are bound to be many, many more. Each of Tamera Avery’s paintings—as “complete” as it might appear at first—is just a beginning.