Student Profile - Avril Falgout

Academy student Avril Falgout creates innovative art

Avril Falgout, 18, a talented artist and student of the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities (TALH) program at Lamar University, has found success, recognition and opportunities across Southeast Texas. Known for her unique, life-sized papier-mâché sculptures, she is advancing in her education at Lamar while creating art for area shows.

Avril Fallout works on artAt an early age, Falgout realized a passion for art. “I was in fifth grade,” she recalled, “when I first started working with papier-mâché.” Falgout’s attraction to expression and creativity led her to learn 3D art forms on her own. Despite being self-taught, her talent grew grew as she challenged herself. She was creating life-sized papier-mâché sculptures by the time she reached high school.

Falgout enjoyed her art classes at Port Neches-Groves High School, but when she realized she wanted to pursue art as a career, she decided that she was ready for more.

“High school wasn’t very challenging for me, so, during school, I’d bring whatever I could do to my desk and work on it during classes and lunch. I’d usually skip lunch.”

That’s when she applied to Lamar University’s Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities, a program for gifted Texas high school-aged students with a focus on the humanities. Falgout’s case was unique; when she entered TALH, she already had several credits for core classes. She was delighted to learn that this would enable her to take even more art classes– an art student’s dreams come true. She has taken up to four art courses at a time, and her favorite has been graphic noveling under the guidance of her professor and mentor, Xenia Fedorchenko.

Despite her growing experience with different art mediums, her favorite remains papier-mâché.

“Unlike other artists, I’m doing papier-mâché, and that’s usually considered so crafty a thing, like a middle school art class. No one ever wants to build it into a fine art. I’ve never seen anyone else in the art department doing papier-mâché.”

Falgout’s art embodies her honesty. While many artists’ creations promote a certain cause or imply a complex underlying meaning, Avril’s work directly reflects her top interests – art, history, and rock ‘n’ roll. She understands that she’s a beginning artist, and her focus for now is on self-improvement.

“This represents nothing other than ‘I like this dress’ or ‘It was a cool period in history’ and I just wanted to try to make that. There is no ulterior motive. My art is all surface; there’s not anything underneath it.”

“I've spent hours on my art before and it has completely fallen apart,” she said. “I just ripped it up and put it out by the curb. I have significantly less problems ruining my stuff than most people have.  I’m okay with it dying one day. Personally, I really believe in expressing the mortality in everything because it reminds me that one day its all going to go away.”

Papier-mâché isn’t the only way her creativity presents itself; Falgout’s obsession with history, culture and materials influence her clothing design for her creations and even her own attire, if the occasion presents itself.

“”I totally consider textiles and all that an art form. In my History of Asian Art class, we research aspects of Asian art. I’m doing kimonos. Those are definitely art, with all the embroidery and dyeing on those.”

Falgout says that her instruction in Lamar art courses really help develop her preexisting fascination with history and fashion. The concepts she learns are continually integrated into her own work.

“As I have a better understanding with better pictures, old pictures, better details on how they did some sort of pattern or drapery, its definitely something I try to apply to sculptures. It’s not like I ‘copy and paste.’ I pick and choose different things and try to put them together in one dress.”

Falgout is known to dress in historical fashion. She has attended events in a 1760s dress, and she’s conjuring plans for a 1880s bustle dress to wear at her next show.

Despite her inventive approach to art, Falgout has a great appreciation for classic masterpieces.

“I enjoy looking at art. The art show in Houston had paintings from the fourteen hundreds and little ivory-carved crucifixion scenes. One was so intricate that you could literally see the veins in the neck. It was so pretty. That was probably made in the fifteen or sixteen hundreds. And I enjoy the work of the old masters. It makes me really get into sculpture-planning.”

Like some of history’s finest artists, once Falgout finds her inspiration, she is almost impossible to stop. She works intensely and sporadically, often losing track of time. She even forgets her own needs at times in her drive to finish a piece.

“I won’t have everything all together on my planning sheets. Ill be like ‘there’s the shoe, there’s the vest, here’s what her hair will look like.’”

Avril Falgout working on art“When I’m doing it, I’m daydreaming half the time. I’m not entirely focused [on my surroundings]. I’ll be like ‘Oh! I just missed lunch. I guess I’ll wait till supper now.’ I do have a tendency to ignore personal health, like not sleep enough or eat enough when I’m doing art. Everything else gets pushed aside.”

Once she finishes a piece, she spends the next few days recovering.

The young artist admits that she is still working hard to master the basics with her pieces rather than pursuing a modern, abstract style.

“I want to get to the older styles of art, not so much the newer, less exact styles. I want to get it as close to looking like a person as possible.”

“I’m really into trying to imitate material. A lot of times, the skin on my sculpture won’t be as realistic as I want it to be, but the dress will be perfectly fine. It’s just the smooth integration of all the colors of the skin that I can’t get yet. That’s what I need to work on now.”

Her artwork is attracting professional recognition and bringing new opportunities. The young artist has received several awards, including the Lawndale Big Show, The Art Studio, Inc. members Juried Art Show, and a Young Arts award, which won her a trip to Los Angeles to meet established artists. She was recently invited by Sarah Bellian, curator and archivist for The Museum of the Gulf Coast, to create a Janis Joplin sculpture that will be displayed for a period inside the exhibit dedicated to the rock ‘n’ roll star. Falgout is excited to have her art on display in a museum for the first time.

While her peers, family, and others praise her work, she is especially appreciative of the constant support from her parents who do whatever they can to aid her in the creative process.

“They help me drive all my stuff to shows and support me,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t be having the shows if my parents weren’t okay with it. When I make stuff at my house, the door remains closed. No one sees my sculptures until they're entirely done.”

Falgout wants to travel in her future studies, exploring other countries and expanding her art with immersion in the cultures. “In other parts of the world, they are much more connected to cultural origins than we are. Depending on where you go, people will still be wearing the original dress.” While she has yet to travel, she feels it will be crucial to her education.

“If I were to go anywhere else, I would just be hardcore into it.”

She would love to end up with her art in Los Angeles, pursuing a career in historical fashions on movie sets or for museums.

The Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities is an early college entrance residential honors program created for gifted students to experience an enriched intellectual program and to earn college credits towards a college degree. Students who complete the TALH program will graduate with a diploma and 60 or more college credit hours. The Academy is one of only two residential programs for talented high school-aged students recognized by the Texas State Legislature, and graduates have been accepted to the nation’s most prestigious universities.