The Merced College Art Gallery invited students and members of the public onto the campus Wednesday night as they welcomed San Francisco artist Tamera Avery into the Central Valley to open her show ‘Off the Rails.’
A longtime painter and graduate from UC Berkley and the San Francisco Art Institute, Avery’s work makes use of oils on canvas to create large scale paintings inspired by real world stories, events or causes.
Pulling images from publications, the Internet, or that she has taken herself as source material, Avery then goes through the collection of imagery once a year to create collages based on what is on her mind at that point.
“I’m very concerned with environmental, political, and social issues” said Avery. “If I feel strongly that there is a piece I need to do I’ll do it.”
A striking example of this came in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, when Avery created one of her first pieces entitled ‘12/14.’
“I was in a show where I had to produce a painting for that show’s theme of Stravinsky’s ‘A Soldier’s Tale,’ so I painted a from a photo that I found online of these kids standing outside as their parents were coming to pick them up afterwards and I took the background from that image but the children I painted into the piece were from a photograph of my own children.”
Avery went on to say that it was at this point that she began to change the way she painted, moving from strict portraiture to her own unique style that still incorporated a figure into each piece, but brought together elements from a variety of sources to create a message or poem of sorts that can communicate with the viewer.
“I feel very strongly that until we can see ourselves in others, were not going to be able to change. Once I started painting this way, it’s just created a force within myself to keep going this way.”
One example of this style that carries a particularly clear message hangs on its own wall and greets viewers as they first make their way in the door at the college gallery. Depicting a background from the Chernobyl area, with the middleground being pulled from a photo of the White House’s Oval Office and a small girl in the foreground.
Avery noted that the figure in the foreground is key to the piece, saying that “The small girl is from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that speaks about how everyone is concerned about what is going on in the Middle East, but the bigger more long-term issue for all of us is going to be water.”
Avery went on to explain that the piece was created in January 2017.
During the reception, those in attendance were able to hear a short lecture from the artist addressing her unique method of creation, as well as ask questions to gain additional insights into the work.
Those interested in viewing Avery’s work from her show ‘Off the Rails’ can do so until March 15, inside of the Merced College Art Gallery, Monday- Thursday, 9:30-11:30 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m.