, Port Arthur, Texas

July 29, 2013

PN-G student makes music with paper mache

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT — For the greater part of six months — July 2012 to January 2013 — 16-year-old Avril Falgout kept to her room.

“I'd have to go to school, of course, but I'd get home and work until midnight or 2 a.m.,” said Falgout, of Port Neches. “Then I’d wake up at 6, go to school, and do it all again.”

That kind of isolation might raise alarms for some parents, but Falgout’s mother knew exactly what her daughter was up to. The Port Neches-Groves High School junior was transforming paper mache, PVC pipe and chicken wire into astonishingly life-like renderings of the five members of the California-based glam rock band, Black Veil Brides — her favorite.

“Her level of detail is just so unique,” said Falgout’s mother, Michelle. “She'd measure her arm, and proportion that to what a six-foot tall person would have.”

The paste on Falgout’s paper-mache musicians had not yet dried when she embarked upon a new challenge. A month later, “Rosie” was born — another life-size creation, this one with firecracker-red hair, “rockabilly” black fishnet hose, copious tattoos lining her arms, and cigarette in hand.

“I finished the band, I went to get lunch, and I started her that same day,” Falgout said.

Fortunately, Falgout’s work will not have to collect dust in her closet. She entered both pieces into “The Big Show,” a contemporary juried art show held yearly at the Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main St., Houston. The show saw 915 submissions by 381 artists within a 100-mile radius of Houston, including three from Falgout. Only 69 works by 61 different artists were selected for the show’s exhibition — including three from Falgout.

“There's national artists, and there's people like Avril who made their work in her bedroom,” Lawndale executive director Christine West said in a telephone interview. “It’s a great equalizer.”

Falgout was one of three participants to receive a juror’s award. Her entries will be on display until Aug. 10.

“It was surreal,” Michelle Falgout said of seeing her daughter’s work juxtaposed against that of other burgeoning contemporary artists.

Falgout’s work is a study in minutiae — from the ornate tattoos lining Rosie’s arms, to the artfully torn jeans and thick black eyeliner of the Black Veil Brides, to the angry red slashes marring the arms of another of her paper-mache pieces she named “Helena.”

“I'm so detail-oriented that I don't concentrate on larger things,” Falgout said. “The tiny stuff would be exact, but the big, obvious things are so off.”

Falgout has been experimenting with paper-mache crafts since her middle-school days. She is learning to refine her technique under the watchful eye of Andy Ledesma. Ledesma and Falgout met by chance at The Art Studio, 720 Franklin St., Beaumont, two years ago.

“When I first saw her, I saw a raw prodigy,” Ledesma said.

Ever since, he has made weekly trips to The Art Studio — where both he and Falgout are members — from his home in Tomball, primarily to mentor his favorite teenage wunderkind.

“I've  been coming to Beaumont for the past two years all the way from Tomball, and part of that is to mentor this person,” Ledesma said, motioning to Falgout. “She doesn't wait to do a great thing — she's doing it every single day.”


Twitter: @ErinnPA