Bigger Than a Breadbox, Wittier Than Anything

ON TOP OF THE AVANT-GARDE
Katrina Chenevert takes everyday objects and outsizes their impact.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Katrina Chenevert works outrageously in a multitude of mediums including, assemblage, soft sculpture, installations, and paint. Her Katrina Chenevert Gallery is an eye-popping showcase of 3D contemporary and Pop Art. 

Chenevert served in the U.S. Navy for 28 years, starting as an enlisted corpsman and retiring as a Lieutenant Commander, before moving to Asheville. She holds a Masters in Education Leadership from George Mason University and a BA (Magna Cum Laude) from UNC-Asheville.

Funktional Art #2
Photo by Rachel Pressley

How did you transition from a career in the Navy to one in the arts?

I was always artistic. I got my first oil-painting set when I was about eight, and was selected “most artistic” in my high-school graduating class. Soon after retiring to Asheville in 2008, I started taking classes and workshops in the River Arts District and at Arrowmont [School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg], which led to an art degree at UNCA with a concentration in sculpture. I did printmaking and painting, but once I switched to sculpture, my whole world changed.

The Taste Tester

Why’d you open the only Pop Art 3D gallery in the Asheville area? 

My art outgrew my River Arts District space. I also love to curate, so it was a way to get like-minded artists a venue to be noticed. I take great pride in not being pigeonholed. I inject humor and satire because I love to see people come in and smile. One time someone walked in and said, “This is really avant-garde; you should charge admission to come in here,” and avant-garde is my all-time favorite compliment.

Smoking Hot Women

What are you working on right now? 

A human-life-size jointed puppet of Felix the Cat, using the architecture of a wooden puppet made in the 1930s. The puppet’s head is smaller than a baseball, but when I’m finished the head alone will have a 72-inch circumference. I’m also working with an oversized mannequin that will be Wonder Woman on a trophy pedestal. I’m doing an elaborate cape of red, yellow, and blue dots — like a Wonder Bread wrapper. She’ll be the original breadwinner.

The Unrequited Voter
Photo by Rachel Pressley

And you also supersize food. Your soft-sculpture grapes [from a series called Kitsch Casa] are over five feet long.

They’re needle-felted [over] Styrofoam. The whole piece only weighs about 15 pounds. The Pop Tarts are made just like a baker would make them, using a layer of felt, a layer of upholstery foam for the filling, needle felted with colors, and then wrapped in a heat sheet like marathon runners use to stay warm after a run. An art collector from New York asked if I could do it in strawberry. 

Pop Tart 1
Photo by Rachel Pressley

How do you create such authentic looking logos and labels?

I free hand the labeling. The Pop Tart is Sharpie pen on the foil; the Moon Pie wrapper is painted. With the Necco Wafers, each disc is needle felted with an embossed Necco on it. And you can take all the wafers out of the wrapper and put them back in.

Selfie
Photo by Rachel Pressley

And your fabulous sepia watercolor series?

I have these fantastic family photos I blow up to an image five to seven times bigger, and do a rough graphite transfer to create an outline for the watercolor. Watercolor is a fun medium, but those are very labor intensive, and it’s difficult for me to stay 2D.

Banana Bondage

How do you come up with such original concepts?

Stuff just pops in my head. Pun intended.

Katrina Chenevert Gallery: Contemporary 3D and Pop Art, 18 Brook St. Suite 102, Biltmore Village, Asheville. The grand opening  happens Saturday, Aug. 7, 6:30-8pm with food, featured artists, and entertainment. See katrinachenevert.com, katrinachenevertgallery.com, and on Instagram: @katrina_chenevert_artist

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