INTERVIEW WITH JOANNA BAVERO

This interview was conducted by Cristina Paulos in January of 2017.


CP: Where are you from and where did you grow up? How did you first start your journey as an artist?  Where do you live now?

JB: I am originally from Westchester, which is also where I currently live. As far back as I can remember I was constantly drawing. When I graduated from high school I went on to get my BFA at Savannah College of Art and Design. After finishing, I lived in different boroughs of NYC for several years before going on to get my MFA at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

 

CP: Your work has a very powerful message about Sexual Abuse, Feminism and Woman’s Rights.  These are very Important topics for a Women today, especially in a Trump America.  Can you tell me more about your story and your hope for the future.  How do you feel as a woman artist today?

JB: This will most certainly be my longest answer because these questions come with a few life stories.

When I was twelve years old I was very overdeveloped for my age. I had to start wearing a bra in the third grade. Because of this, a few other girls and I were the targets of sexual assault at school by some fellow students. This went on for several months. It went well beyond harassment meaning that they put their hands up my shirt and down my pants on a daily basis without my permission. This was a life-shaping event in terms of how I came to view my own sexuality and self-worth. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the assault I suffered that formed this new relationship to what it was to be a woman, but rather what followed. After one girl told a teacher, we were all called one by one into the principal’s office. The principal, being a woman, said a few words that I strive to rail against every day as a female artist. She said, “when you act a certain way and dress a certain way, people are going to think a certain way about you.” The boys were suspended for a week and we had an all day sexual harassment workshop in school but my parents were never called or notified. I was left to draw my own conclusions that this was something to be shameful of. I inferred that I not only asked for it, but got what I deserved.

This sentiment echoed throughout my life and shaped my sexual identity. When I was seventeen, I was date raped by a much older boyfriend. To this day, the word rape is still hard for me to use when referring to this. It wasn’t clear-cut in my mind. I felt responsible for not pushing back harder, for not saying no louder and for continuing a relationship with him afterwards.

My hope for the future, especially having a president who brags about sexual assault, is for women everywhere, especially the young ones to know that they have a powerful voice, the right to say no and also the right to unapologetically own who they are. I found that voice through art. I stand for every person to feel completely free and self-expressed in whatever outlet/s they choose. I absolutely love being part of an all girl collective. I cannot express enough how important I believe it is, as a woman and as an artist to be supported and encouraged by one another, rather than being bashed and torn down.

 

CP: Are there any specific events in your life that you know helped shape you as an artist?

JB: There are two in particular that stick out in my mind. The first being that when I was nineteen my mother passed away from pancreatic cancer, she had been diagnosed when I was seventeen. In a letter she wrote to me, she told me to “be an artist, it’s what’s in your soul.” She knew there was nothing else that would leave me fulfilled in life.

The second is a realization I came to before deciding to go to grad school. When I was in college, there were some students that said if they didn’t make art, they would die. I thought I wasn’t a true artist because I didn’t feel that way. It seemed very extreme. After college, I was lost for a few years. I took odd jobs and didn’t make any art for nearly two years. I fell into a serious depression during that time. I finally came to realize that without making art, I actually would die. It would just be a slow death. It sounds melodramatic, I know, but I realized that a life without art for me isn’t a life worth living. Every day I don’t creatively express myself, my soul dies a little. If I’m ever in a depressed mood now, my sister knows to ask me, “when was the last time you made art?!”

 

CP: Tell me about your inspirations, your artistic or/and creative process?

JB: I draw inspiration from my life experiences. People have always fascinated me. I have never been interested in making art without a human or humans being the subject/s.

My creative process is slightly different from most. Instead of sketching out an idea, I start with an inventory of photos (I literally have thousands) that I play with and manipulate in Photoshop where I hash out my ideas before deciding what to make and with what materials.


CP: What is your favorite piece you’ve done and why?  Can you tell us about the art project or art?

JB: Oh god, they’re all my little babies, I don’t know that I could choose! As an artist, you struggle with each piece in some way, you have a love/hate relationship with them during the process of creating and they all become a sort of labor of love.


CP: You have a very different and unique approach to art making.  You use untraditional materials such as steel, plexiglass and florescent light casings. I would imagine the reflective qualities will have an interesting effect on the viewers and spectators. Can you talk more about your use of MATERIALS in your art making process?  What is it about these materials that attracted you to them?

JB: The development of my materials started out really as a happy accident. In grad school, one of my professors told me I could transfer an image with Vaseline and a china marker using plexiglass. That didn’t work at all but I loved the effect of the plexi. The transparent materials really lent themselves conceptually to my art by adding a dimension where the viewer can both see a projection through the piece while also seeing their own reflection. I began to experiment with all different types of materials and that discovery continues as I have started adding even more layers using different mediums and materials.

 

CP: Are you currently working on any art projects or art? If is so ..can you talk a little about it?

JB: Right now I am working on several pieces, which I like to do because sometimes I need a break from one and want to work on something else. Both are a part of my newest series that has different layers of portraits and hand sewn flowers, like the piece I created for our Grrrl show in Houston, entitled “Angelina.”

CP: Is there any advice or life lessons you would like to share with GRRRL collective?

JB: Rather than advice, I would really just like to thank all of you grrrls for welcoming me into the collective so generously! Being a part of a group of artists whom I respect so much has given me a new sense of purpose in my art making and a surge of creativity.

 © Grrrl Art 2016