Jenni Crain
March Avery

Louise McCagg Gallery
Barnard College, New York, NY
March 27 - April 14, 2019

Barnard College’s Department of Art History is pleased to present an exhibition of works by March Avery (BC’54). The exhibition features a selection of Avery’s paintings, dating from 1955 through 1978, alongside four sculptural works in stone, clay and porcelain, each composed by the artist in the mid-1980’s. This presentation of works curated by Jenni Crain is only an intimate glimpse into the breadth of Avery’s work, which spans a course of more than six decades.

Born in New York to painters Milton Avery and Sally Michel in 1932, March began drawing and painting at the age of two. While March was not formally trained by her parents, nor institutionally for that matter, the cultivation of and commitment to one’s practice was central within the Avery household. In a quote that she has frequently referred to, March recalls, “My father did not teach me. I would show him one of my paintings and all he would say was ‘paint another’.”

Throughout her life, March’s parents painted with a constancy and intensity that undoubtedly shaped her own discipline. At 86, she continues to paint six days a week, five of these in her studio near Broadway and Lafayette. Her approach has developed from direct observation of the visual world, and so it should come as no surprise that March’s painterly techniques and application coincide with the now iconic vocabularies and aesthetics of her mother and father—namely, a distillation of subjects that bridges realism and abstraction. These simplified forms are often amplified through chromatic composition in a harmonious balance of shape and color.

The influence of her surroundings and those most closely a part of them abounds throughout March Avery’s work. We are introduced to her husband, photographer and scholar Philip G. Cavanaugh, in four of the works on view. In the earliest, Philip, dating from 1955, he stands on his own as he gazes directly out towards the viewer, or perhaps more decidedly, towards March as she paints. In 1963, he reclines, reading on a sofa, suspended in a state of repose that reflects the profound intimacy of this deeply personal moment. In 1969, he lies in bed sleeping next to their infant son; while in Father & Son of 1972, Philip sits in an armchair, Sean propped upon his hip, their cat resting in his lap.

These impressions from daily life imbue even her more traditional subject matters with a sense of tenderness. In Sean’s Still Life of 1969, painted by March the year her son was born, three small toys are set around a vase of blooms, as if in welcome of the play together that awaits. Though directly biographical elements may be absent in Flowering Begonia and Nude on Afghan, both of 1978, we glean an impression of March’s affection for and dedication to the process of painting itself as routine. These flowers likely set atop a table within her home, shared with her husband and son; the nude, likely a seated model, painted from life or in retrospect, posed during a local life study session in which March would partake, many of these organized by a group of fellow women artists.

The sculptural works carry with them a similar sense of humble, daily devotion. We can consider these works as odes to the everyday in different media and dimensions. The forms are both familiar and fanciful - an artichoke, though oversized; a flower, though considerably more exotic than the flowers in her home; a butterfly, again larger-than-life, it’s form reduced but immediately recognizable; and Coelacanth, a fish, which is a petite, hand-wrought replica of an anatomical model belonging to the Museum of Natural History. March mentioned that the Coelacanth was thought to have gone extinct [approximately 70 million years ago] but was discovered again in waters far away [off the coast of South Africa in 1938].

March Avery (b. 1932, New York) works and lives in New York City with her husband, Philip G. Cavanaugh, and close to her son, the painter Sean A. Cavanaugh, his wife, and their daughter. Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented in galleries throughout the United States in cities such as New York, Provincetown, Washington, D.C., Wellfleet, Santa Fe, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Chevy Chase, among others. In 1994, a solo exhibition of March Avery’s works dating from 1974-1994 was presented at the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University. Her work has been included within group exhibitions at but not limited to the Louise E. Thorne Memorial Art Gallery at Keene State College ; Woodstock Artists Association and Museum; Sweet Briar College Art Gallery; Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art; Rockford Museum of Art; Rahr-West Museum; Hofstra Museum at Hofstra University; US Mission to the OSCE, Vienna; Long Island Museum of American Art; and the Art & History Museums, Maitland. March Avery’s work has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions alongside the work of her mother and father. This May 11 – September 1 2019, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich Connecticut will exhibit Summer with the Averys [Milton/Sally/March], curated by Kenneth E. Silver.

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08A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_StillLifeforSean

March Avery Sean’s Still Life, 1969. Oil on canvas. 30 x 50 inches

09A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_Father&Son

March Avery Father & Son, 1972. Oil on canvas. 37 x 34 inches

10A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_NudeonAfghan

March Avery Nude on Afghan, 1978. Oil on canvas. 44 x 56 inches

11A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_Father&SleepingSon

March Avery Sleeping Father & Son, 1969. Oil on canvas. 14 x 18 inches

12A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_Philip

March Avery Philip, 1955. Oil on canvas. 18 x 12 inches

13A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_FloweringBegonia

March Avery Flowering Begonia, 1978. Oil on canvas. 34 x 50 inches

14A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_PhilipReading

March Avery Philip Reading, 1963. Oil on canvas. 40 x 44 inches

15A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_JackinthePulpit

March Avery Jack-in-the-Pulpit, c. 1985 - 1986. Porcelain. 11 x 4 x 14 3/4 inches

16A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_Butterfly

March Avery Butterfly, c. 1985 - 1986. Soft stone. 15 x 11 x 8 inches

17A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_Artichoke

March Avery Artichoke, c. 1985 - 1986. Clay. 5 3/4 x 9 3/4 x 7 1/4 inches

18A_MarchAvery_JenniCrain_Coelacanth

March Avery Coelacanth, c. 1985 - 1986. Clay and porcelain. 10 1/2 x 17 1/2 x 11 inches