Valerie Savarie's Me, Myself and You, which opens Friday, March 15, at Zip 37, is an exploration of the artist's relationship to the viewer. For this participatory show, Savarie is asking gallery visitors to share their reactions to her work, good or bad, on postcards that she plans on mailing back to them with a creative response.
In advance of tomorrow's opening, Savarie talked with Westword about building this reciprocal relationship and what her manipulated, book-style pieces have evolved. Keep reading for a sneak peek at Saravie's new show.
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The focus of Savarie's latest show is her trademark book sculptures, which focus on a particular set of encyclopedic texts.
"Half of the books I'm using for the show I purchased on eBay, because last year I had eight books that I did from a really cool encyclopedic collection that I found at a thrift store," says Savarie. "The set I'm using this year are from 1938, I believe. It's interesting, going through the same publisher but different years -- the paper is a lot poorer quality in the '40s, because there was still a war going on. There was a lot of recycling and efforts going toward the war, but they had a lot brighter colors. With the books from 1938, the colors are more subdued but the paper quality is a lot better."
Savarie is always on the lookout for older books. "I try not to use any books that were published after the '70s -- part of it is a quality, part of it is nostalgia. Part of it is that a lot of books that I find are from the '70s, and earlier the ones you most frequently find in thrift stores." In addition to texts, Savarie has been working with new materials. "Usually when I have a show, I have two totally different types of art. This is the first time I've really focused on several things, (but) they are all part of this same collection of repurposed art," says Savarie. This work uses recycled materials -- but from a commercial standpoint versus a textual one. "I have two recycled Jose Cuervo boxes that were a limited-edition print from different artists and I've cut inside them," she says. "I've added additional elements so that the previous artists' art isn't just totally usurped." As for the interactive part of Me, Myself And You, Savarie hopes to create a fluid correspondence with her audience. "Basically, I have all of these pieces up and I'll have little statements about what they mean to me. The whole thought behind the exhibition is that these are small portraits of me through various remembrances -- when I was growing up to more current time," says Savarie.
"My hope is that someone will connect with a specific piece -- whether they hate it because it reminds them of something humiliating, or because it is a good memory," she continues. "I'm hoping they have some kind of connection. The goal is for them to write that down on these pre-stamped postcards. Then on the back, based on what their comments were, I'm going to do a small little piece and send it in the mail. I think it's kind of cool because going through the (physical) mail process it will probably get a little altered. I'd like to (say) thank you for coming, thank you for sharing with me, and I want to share back with you."
But she knows she'll get something out of the back-and-forth action, too. "I've always wanted to be better at correspondence, as far as writing something and mailing it out -- this is part of my goal," she says. "Maybe someone ends up writing me back." If she receives a lot of responses, Savarie may create a book from them.
Ultimately, she sees the show as a means of connecting viewers with art in a way that is accessible, and not as intimidating as gallery shows can often seem.
"I think when we talk about supporting the arts, it has to be a give and take; yes, we want people to come out and experience art. But if they don't have a positive experience, they are less likely to come back and do it again," says Savarie. "This is kind of my way of nurturing that relationship -- like, look, art doesn't have to be scary and confrontational and feel uncomfortable. You don't have to feel like you're being put on the spot if you don't agree with the art that's being put out there."
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Me, Myself And You opens this Friday, March 15 at Zip 37, 3644 Navajo Street. Savarie will be on hand for the opening reception from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.