"I have started a series of paintings about the items that women carry with them for protection while walking, running or just generally out and about. Each item represented in the paintings are from real women and each have a story behind it. It’s really fascinating to know that this is a shared experience between so many women, yet it’s not really talked about."
In the early part of this past summer I visited the Women's Art Institute's exhibition of the 2019 Studio Intensive cohort. I wanted to see my friend Cory Favre's latest series of works. I had seen some sneak peeks of the new art she was creating on Instagram and I was intrigued to see it in person.
As I approached her art in the gallery I was immediately attracted to the bright color palette she worked with. Each piece was a portrait of an everyday object. The pop art feel and bubble gum color, strategically and ironically used, depicts something a bit darker. These objects represent what women have used to protect themselves from being hurt, assaulted, or raped. A set of dirty plastic teeth or keys are among these items. Cory had collected stories from real women on this topic, inspiring this new series.
Cory's art brings to conversation a topic that is terribly real for women and that isn't always talked about. The work is a form of consciousness raising: comforting and upsetting as well as unsettling and relatable. Her art makes me feel like I am not alone; that my fear of being attacked or assaulted isn't uncommon; that other women too carry objects of protection. My objects have often been keys, but I have also held a book and an ice scraper.
Cory’s primary mediums are oil and encaustic (beeswax). She is influenced by such artists as James Rosenquist, Kiki Smith, Jenny Holzer, CJ Hendry, Shawn Huckins, and Nancy Spero. Her recent work lives in the space between sarcasm and snark, humor and the serious, fun and not so fun. Social issues, politics and human nature are all inspirations for her work.
A visual artist living and working in Minnesota, Cory has a BGS from Ball State University with focuses in Studio Art and Interior Design and is an alumni of The Women’s Art Institute. Cory serves on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota and is a member of Arts Roseville and the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association.
In this interview, Cory talks about her experience at the Women's Art Institute as well what challenges she faces as an artist (like finding time to make art or apply for opportunities - I can relate!) Read and admire on!
Jes: You recently completed the Women’s Art Institute. For those who don’t know what that program is, can you talk more about it. What was your experience like? How did it help your art career?
Cory: I did! It was an amazing experience that really pushed me to be more deliberate with my work. The Women’s Art Institute (WAI) is a four week studio intensive at St. Catherine’s University taught by Pat Olson (founding member of the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota) and AK Garsky. It is a mixture of discussions, studio visits with amazing local women artists (we have SO many!!), artist talks, and independent work in a studio of your choosing in the art building. Some of the artists we were lucky to hear from were Hend Al-Mansour, Harriet Bart, Dyani White Hawk, and Katayoun Amjadi.
The class time is directed by questions that we, the students, come up with. We brainstorm on the first day and widdle those questions down into the seven most important. Our class discussions are then prompted by each of those questions. I found this to be a really interesting way to guide a class, it wasn’t as though we were being lectured each day, it was more of all the people in class offering their wisdom and insights. I believe that many answers we were looking for were within ourselves and that when we can all come together we are stronger for it.
The afternoons are broken up into studio time to work on your own project. We would meet with Pat and AK individually once a week to discuss our work and get feedback. This was also very helpful for me because I haven’t really had much ability to get constructive feedback on my work since college. Now that WAI is over, I have a network of fellow students to get support and critique my work. We meet once a month to discuss what we are working on.
By the end of the month, we have a body of work that gets a final critique by Pat and AK, as well as the class, and pieces are chosen to go into the Work from the Women’s Art Institute Exhibition.
This experience was truly something that I won’t forget and was so beneficial for my work. I had been struggling with subject matter and feeling like perhaps my work didn’t have an audience. The Women’s Art Institute helped me get over that and learn I do have a wider audience that I thought and focus my messaging more accurately. Also, it was just nice to work in a huge, bright studio for four whole weeks! I would highly recommend this for any woman artist looking to deepen their own understanding of their work and learn from some amazing women.
What do you love about being an artist?
I love that being an artist gives me an outlet and freedom to try different things. I love that I can have my own space to get away to and just be myself and create. I notice that my mood is better when I get to create something. When I can’t paint or draw in my studio, I have noticed that my creative juices come out in other ways. For example, we moved into a new home this summer and my studio is still not fully operational, so I have been baking. A lot. I find that being an artist lets me do all of these things and that I am very much a real artist whether the medium is cake or oil paint.
What challenges are you faced with as an artist?
There are many challenges to being an artist as well. Imposter syndrome is a real thing and I feel like more than previous years I have struggled with this. The Institute helped quite a bit and I constantly try and keep that thinking at bay.
I would have to say, however, my biggest struggle lately is time. Being a mother of a toddler makes it really tough to find a balance. Since being an artist doesn’t usually have set working hours, it can get really difficult to fit in studio time. I have had to be easier on myself with regards to time, it’s okay not to get into the studio every day. I have to remind myself that my paints aren’t going anywhere, despite the pressure I put on myself to get work done and apply for shows and grants. My son is only going to be little for so long.
What do you need as an artist?
Time. And space. As I mentioned before, time is a tricky thing to manage right now in my life. Kids take up so much of it! Space is equally important. I need a designated, quiet space to work. Currently, that is a home studio in my basement - which isn’t always quiet and I’m usually never alone. But, you have to work with what you have and I am doing my best. Things aren’t always perfect, but I am thankful that I have the space in my home for a studio and that even if I can carve out a few hours a month for my art then that is a success!
What’s next? Do you have any new projects on the horizon?
Currently, I am starting a project that I hope will be funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant (should find out in a couple months!). The idea came to me at WAI and has been received so well in it’s little beginning forms. I have started a series of paintings about the items that women carry with them for protection while walking, running or just generally out and about. Each item represented in the paintings are from real women and each have a story behind it. It’s really fascinating to know that this is a shared experience between so many women, yet it’s not really talked about. My hope for the project is to complete 100 paintings from 100 different women about what each of them carries for safety. I believe having so many stories shown together in a large installation will both give women a greater sense of community in a shared experience, as well as, show that this is a regularly lived experience for so many. I am really excited about this project and hope that it brings a lot of people together.
I will also have work shown at Gamut Gallery’s Raging Art On during December 2019 and work at Red Wing Arts Small Works show November - December 2019.
Where can we find you online?
You can find me on my website, www.coryfavre.com, or I am usually most active on Instagram, @the.beatnik.
All images courtesy of the artist.
Artists I Admire is a series of interviews with artists I think highly of.