Eva Avenue on manifesting her creative identity and forging her own path

I won’t take up much room or time introducing my next interviewee because she does a pretty good job of doing that herself and this interview is almost 4,000 words long — or in literary terms, roughly 6 percent of a Virginia Woolf novel. Don’t let that scare you off, though — it’s one of my best interviews yet. Everyone, meet Eva Avenue.

Elly Gibson: Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your story?

Eva Avenue: I’m an artist and vlogger who talks about my day and what I find inspiring or annoying, usually in the art studio or at home. I was born in Amsterdam, in an attic my mom lived in while attending school for painting. I spent my early childhood in the Algarve (southern Portugal) before moving to Florida. I’ve lived all over the States doing fun things. I’m a huge advocate for women and how they should fully utilize their source of power. In this patriarchal culture, women are not taught what a woman is. I’d love to run my own book group for the life-changing foundational Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts: Using The Power of Pleasure To Have Your Way With The World. I attended the school version of this book and my life has never been the same since.

My identity has been mainly formed by my creative talents. It’s what I got praised for early on, it’s what I invest my time, money and learning in, and I just keep doing it and when I try to do anything else I get depressed.

I do graphic design and blogging for the Sweetwater Organic Coffee Company out of Gainesville, FL, and sometimes Coffeetalk Magazine runs my Righteous Barista comic. I have a little publishing company called Nightly Noodle Monthly.

I paint large faces and colorful scenes made up of imaginal cells, which are inspired by scientific talks from Bruce Lipton, Albert Einstein, and Richard Feynman, and the feminine power of creating something from nothing (it’s basically magic).

I write songs and sing them while playing electric guitar or bass with my drummer friend Sam Loder and that band is Spoiled Horse Racer. I’m excited to get back to the States from Belfast in October so we can play again. And I like to shred a piano. My favorite music is old New Orleans jazz and live punk shows.

I write too. I used to host the Free Weekly Crazy Wisdom Poetry Workshop in Albuquerque in 2014, it was really fun, I liked to give odd poetry prompts and we’d work on reading loudly and confidently. In one class we went to the parking lot and yelled our poems across to each other. Cause they would be so quiet and little when they read, I wanted them to feel the poetry bursting out their bodies. I keep meaning to bring that class back online. I’ve been writing as a main source of steady income most of my adult life, for city art blogs, newspapers, magazines, online publications and zines. I don’t write for free but as a matter of principle I do write for zines for free. I’ve had many writers write for free for my zine the Nightly Noodle Monthly (which is both a zine and a publishing company — click on the covers inside that link to read full PDF issues for free).

photo by Chris LeClere

EG: From what I can tell, you are extremely multi-talented. I love how your art bleeds into your writing and vice versa. Would you say they influence each other?

EA: Thank you!! Sometimes they influence each other, I can’t always tell. Something like New Orleans may inspire my art, music and writing all at once, but just cause I’m painting a rose there doesn’t mean I’ll also feel lead to make music about the rose. Hey maybe I should try that though. I think doing them all keeps me well-oiled in the creative flow, so if I don’t feel like painting for months, I’ll definitely feel like writing music. One stands in for the other. They all are similar, though, in the way I play fast and loose with structure to create multiple meanings or new outcomes or remixes on old ideas.

EG: A lot of your creative work feels very eclectic and fun. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it feels like you get a lot of your ideas for one project from lots of different sources/places. So where do you get inspiration for what to do next?

EA: Most of what I do is inspired by the poetics of innovation and the spirit of New Orleans. The feel, the memories, the imagery, even if abstracted or indirect. I’m always a little bit there in my heart. Or sometimes I’ll have a vision of a part of an image and I’ll know I have to make it into a painting as soon as possible. Or I’ll hear a piece of music in my head or a melody with a line of words and I turn that into a song. Basically bits of ideas and inspirations flurry around me like snowflakes and I have the choice to pick one or a few and run with it, creating something from nothing. I’m really a live wire.

EG: With all of the stuff you’re constantly creating, how do you find time to sleep?

EA: Haha, I love sleeping! I sleep as much as I can. Two weeks ago I woke up around 7 a.m., posted my new painting “Tropical Belfast” to Instagram and then passed out again till 3 p.m., at which point I woke up to find two DMs asking to buy the painting. I sold it for $393. All my work sells for way too cheap but I haven’t integrated with a more affluent market yet. Plus I love selling to my friends. I wish I could be more like Hermes and really value what I do. But when I value what I do, it just sits there cause I’m not organized enough to scale my efforts apparently.

I used to be an overactive work-around-the-clock person but I got really, really burned out and drained dry at the mercy of two awful relationships that crashed my drive and forced me to rewire some deficiencies in my self-perception. I’ve been recovering the past few years, putting blood back in the veins of my soul, growing past it and all that. I got married to a wonderful, hilarious man I met on Instagram last year, and he is the antithesis of a psycho, so that has been very helpful and soothing. I manifested him through a drawing exercise with Patti Dobrowolski where I illustrated my desired future next to a drawing of my present situation. She said it would take one year to come to fruition and yes, it did take exactly one year. People look for more excitement in their lives. The nature of my work puts me around exciting people and places all the time and I strive for less of it. It’s all been too much lol. I just want to work quietly now.

EG: We both went to UNM and I think that’s kind of cool, although I guess we just missed each other as you left the year I went in. What did you study there? Did you ever work at the Daily Lobo? I did! But honestly, that didn’t last very long because they had too many dumb rules.

EA: That is just so cool we were both there. Did you come from the East Coast too? I was in the University Studies program where you design your own degree and submit a statement of intent, so I told them I wanted to be a well-rounded arts editor. The way I saw it, I was already working at the Daily Lobo and learning journalism from that, so the well-rounded-arts-editor thing would allow me to take higher-level arts classes without having to commit to one course of study and then be forced to take all this boring extra repetitive stuff. I took enough editing and writing classes to claim a minor in professional writing, and I also took playwriting, comedy writing, French classes, a third-level painting class, black and white photography, ballet, African dance — just all these great creative classes. And I took all Dave Hickey’s classes too in art theory and art writing.

I owe so much to my time at the Daily Lobo. What a wonderful experience that was. I held almost every position on the staff from 2005-2010, with all the challenges, mistakes and hard-won lessons that entailed. I learned how to write clearly and concisely as a reporter; how to work with writers as an editor; how to write headlines as copy editor and copy chief. I learned how to manage a team as editor-in-chief. I learned how to motivate people through positive feedback and how to put my attention on them. I learned what fluff and crap looks like versus real, substantial writing. I learned what is worth printing and what is a waste of paper. I learned that people will want you to play it safe but just take the risk anyway and the next day you wake up and no one even cares. College papers are for stretching possibilities, it’s your space to fly, fall, fail, change, rise, whatever.

And you’re right, there were lots of dumb rules and that’s why I started my own publication, which got 2nd place for Best Local Zine in the Alibi, four months after it launched.

EG: I see you designed the covers of more than a few Alibis. I loved reading Alibi when I lived in Albuquerque! How did you like Albuquerque?

A: I worship Albuquerque so much I literally can’t stand it and I think about it all the time. All of New Mexico really. I remember the first Alibi cover I ever did. It’s kinda funny to think back on. The editor Laura Marrich at the time, she reached out and asked if I could design them a steampunk cover for the next issue. I knew from experience you don’t WAIT AROUND when someone ASKS YOU TO DO SOMETHING COOL so my immediate response was I’ll do it RIGHT NOW, and not only right now but on her office floor. I rode my bike straight from UNM, used her printer to print out a bunch of random images, and I cut everything out in pieces and made an elaborate collage sitting on the floor, embellished it with a white and black pencil and it was done pretty fast. I handed it to her and left. I wanted to leave a good impression.

Eva’s first Alibi cover

EG: What’s the UK like? Why did you move there? What are you planning on getting accomplished there?

EA: I’m in the part of the UK that is Northern Ireland. It’s a really interesting culture here. It’s a civilization built on a wound. There’s deeply rooted conflict between Catholics and Protestants which seems to just mean Irish and British. So it’s not like living on mainland England, and it’s not like being in the Republic of Ireland with Dublin and everything. It’s like this lesser-known space that was completely forgotten about while they were voting to pass Brexit. Now it’s being argued over. But the people here are nice, and a lot of artists do work about the political climate here.

I moved here because I needed a break from the anxiety of living all this Trump stuff on the daily. I needed perspective. My husband was going to do his PhD fieldwork in Ireland, studying the specialty coffee industry so I asked him if we could live here for awhile to get away. It’s been wonderful. And we drink a lot of coffee.

EG: Not only are you creative in the physical artsy-craftsy sense, you’re also musically inclined. Tell me about your music and Spoiled Horse Racer! I love your cover of Your Woman. (PS I also play a lot of instruments and I just bought a drum set so if you’re ever in Albany, NY, and need a drummer…  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

EA: Thank you for noticing the Your Woman cover. The reason that is the last song posted on Soundcloud is because I got a tweet that was so freakin’ validating, I straight up no longer cared about posting anything – I could die now. Jyoti Mishra, the guy who IS White Town and who wrote and produced Your Woman, he sent me a Tweet that said, “Thank you, your cover is delicious! I also love your original stuff, my fave upon first listen is No Matter To A Girl. 👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽”

Like, WHAT?!!??!?!!??! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So how did this all start anyway?

When I was seven, I asked my mom for piano lessons. She found me a piano teacher down the street who taught me how to sight-read music, how to perform in front of people, and she would take me on outings with foreign exchange music students from Japan who would wear beautiful kimonos. She would take us to the Dali Museum. She had me playing concerts at this Steinway showroom in Clearwater or Largo, FL somewhere. I participated in the piano guilds, where you’re graded on a variety of tests, and I always got superior ratings. So when Yo-Yo Ma came to town and wanted some kids to play piano with him for part of his concert at Mahaffey Theatre, I was chosen to participate. It was a big deal, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

I stopped taking lessons around 12 because it was expensive for my mom, but I continued playing on my own, and in middle school I was playing percussion in band.

So I had a really good basic education for songwriting. Piano teaches you phrasing and rhythm, melody and counterpoint and all the cornerstones of music theory. But I wanted to find crazier piano sounds. Be careful what you wish for.

While attending UNM, I was in a band with this really horrible person in whom I only saw potential and not the reality. He essentially ruined my life, until I was able to turn it around and make it better. But through our practices, I learned to be real loose and intuitive with my piano. It was a real devil-went-down-to-Georgia situation, I basically traded my soul to get all good and loosey goosey on piano. We made a few albums and the local music shop would buy them off me five at a time.

Then I went to Seattle and got to play in Sam Miller’s old band Jenny Invert, and we recorded some of my songs at Crybaby Studios on Capitol Hill, like Silver and Gold and Carol of the Bells. Learned backup-singing on other people’s tracks. Got to play at the Crocodile, it was all pretty great. Then I went to help score a film in Austin, TX that ended up winning some awards on the film festival circuit. It was fun and I got to write some beautiful compositions but I felt screwed over and demeaned. I did all this work, established the entire musical style for the film and then the guy took literally all the credit and buried me in the end of the credits as “additional piano.” Can you believe it? Classic. Fuckin’ classic.

Anyway, yes, please be my drummer whenever I’m in NY!

EG: Tell me more about performing on stage as a 10-year-old with cellist Yo-Yo Ma! What an incredible memory that must be.

EA: I actually don’t remember too much except it was a big audience, I understood that his presence garnered deep reverence. I remember walking out into the light of the stage in an otherwise dark room, that was quite the sensation. The pianos were so clean and shiny and smooth, it all felt so elegant and important. And we played together as practiced, and then we stayed on stage for a bit while he continued to play his cello. I don’t remember how the night ended or how it started though. And of course no one in my family took any pictures or video. ::sigh:: It was tough, though. My mom was still shell-shocked from being abandoned by my dad so I don’t blame her for not being on top of it. Oh my lord, I never thought of this, but maybe the Mahaffey Theatre has footage in their archives! I should ask them.

EG: Tell me a bit about Noodle Publishing. What’s your mission for that particular leg of your creativity?

EA: It started as a way for me to publish content on my own terms, because the Daily Lobo had all these rules for writing, which was great for training me, but I wanted to interview people I knew and write more creatively and not have to attribute every freakin’ sentence to someone else. I also felt like the student ghetto needed its own local publication. I dreamed up how it might look while I was in a hospital in Barcelona recovering from a viper bite. I nearly had my leg amputated! I got back after five weeks in the hospital, a little late for school in September, and by Oct. 4, 2009 the first issue of the Noodle was out. The writing was fresh and radical in its undertaking; conceptual; I didn’t want to publish any filler, I wanted the reader to have no regrets about reading any page. If I sold ads, I’d design them so they blended into the content. I hate the look of other publications with these square ads sticking out like sore thumbs and mismatched colors and the whole thing looking just so bad on the page. I wanted to create a very artistic, engaging, fresh publication and I think I did.

This year is the 10-year anniversary of the Noodle, and the past year I published one chapter a month for 12 months of my friend Marcella’s book Hobo Vodka: Americana On The Rocks – crazy stories of her life growing up in New Mexico. It was a way to get the book written, a way for her to get the chapters done. The Noodle loves assisting new writers in getting their thoughts out. I have some things in the works this year to celebrate the Noodle. I’m a little overwhelmed by so many things going on but it’s being sorted out and organized as we speak.

EG: Who are some of your favorite artists? Is there an artist who has driven you to explore visual art?

EA: I’m always discovering new artists I’m excited about, and I feel like I should talk about them more on my vlog. I just learned who Malika Favre is. She does a lot of New Yorker covers, some which you’ll recognize having seen casually. But I was looking at her full roster of work and I’m absolutely blown away. She did a beautiful series of illustrations about Le Crazy Horse, this artistic high-chic cabaret club in Paris that’s run by a feminist. Her sense of light around negative and positive space is luscious and clever.

I cannot get enough of monotypes and paintings by Christian Rex van Minnen!!!

Tim Hawkinson is one of my favorite artists of all time after I saw his retrospective at the Whitney Museum. I’d love to be a curator for the Whitney.

David Hockney was the first artist I was exposed to at 4 years old and seeing his work was very inspiring. Of course the first artists I knew of were my parents. I used to go down to this lake with my mom in Portugal while she made sketches of swans and turned them into giant paintings. The swans were aggressive and sometimes snapped at her big drawing pad. But she just kept drawing.

I love discovering new work. I see great artists on Instagram all the time. When I go to a show and see paintings, I immediately want to go home and paint, whether it’s old paintings or contemporary paintings.

But no, not one single painter made me want to paint. That came from within. But, I mean, I had to realize painting existed, technically, to know I could do it, so I guess in that respect maybe there was a painter who instigated it all. Maybe it was my mom. Maybe it was David Hockney.

Eva with painter Ashley Longshore at Bergdorf’s in NYC last October.

EG: What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever gifted you?

EA: My life is fueled by endless great advice. I love insight; conversations that dig deep on the nature of power dynamics. I have gotten SO MANY GREAT PIECES OF ADVICE. Let me try and remember them all.

Great advice includes: listen to podcasts that feature Kasia Urbaniak; you can’t do epic shit with basic people; don’t have a backup plan to fall on cause then you’ll fall on it; keep an unbroken focus on someone after they tell you no or give you a rejection, instead of turning inward and hurting; create little altars to aid in gratitude and transformation to help manifest what you want; when you’re drawing a face, draw an upside down egg and then mark the eyes right in the middle of the oval – people usually draw the eyes too high; always salt your pasta water; don’t throw your rice water out but let it cool and put it on your hands and face for nutrients and softening. MORE ADVICE:  

ON MAKING YOURSELF DO THE THING: Mark Chavez of the comedy duo The Pajama Men told me something once that I still use today for anything I’m doing, but he told me in the context of doing stand-up comedy. Book the comedy show, and then you’re forced to come up with material! So if you have an issue with follow-through, put yourself in a position where you are required to deliver, cause necessity breeds invention, and suddenly you’re not up against self-doubt but the cold, hard reality that you MUST come up with SOMETHING.

ON PLAYING BASS: I once asked my friend Sam Miller to give me a bass lesson. I was like “how do you play bass.” He was like, “How do you play bass?? I don’t know, you just play it!” And he grabbed the bass and played it all over in a variety of funk as if it just didn’t matter and he was dancing around barely paying attention to the notes and it was like this weird moment in a Zen book where suddenly the student is enlightened. And now I am very good at bass.

They Only Want When You’re Lots Of Fun it the first song I ever wrote on the bass, and I perform it on the bass while singing too. I have a wonderful Soundcloud of shit Garageband recordings I keep as a song notebook. You definitely need headphones to listen to any of it or it sounds like static flat spazz on an open speaker.

photo by Xina Scuderi

EG: Do you have any upcoming projects? What are your plans for the future?

EA: My plan is to attend UF in Gainesville for my Master’s in Museum Studies and then get a job in NYC, pay off my student loans, and meanwhile maintain a creative studio and sell my paintings, have fun art parties and create a multi-million dollar creative empire.

Meanwhile I’m looking for ways to turn my friend Marcella’s book Hobo Vodka into a movie called Luna, New Mexico. I’ve also started an Instagram account for Flax Art Studios in Belfast — they’ve been around the 30 years and never started a gram! They just relocated to a giant building that used to be a TV station. So I’ll be building that up till I leave, then pass it to someone else.

I’m also working on putting some e-books together for the anniversary of the Noodle. I’m going to make a book press with two cutting boards so I can make my own books, I found a great video this girl put together on how to make a simple book press for only $25 in materials (if you already have a drill), usually book presses are around $200 online.

Eva is a force. She’s vibrant, she’s energetic, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that she is actually a human person and not a time traveler or an alien from an eclectic planet. You can catch up with her on her website, her Instagram, and her Facebook.

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