Addressing femininity and identity through art

Tess Archambault is a senior illustration major whose art will be featured in the 2017 BFA Art Show taking place Thursday, April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ArtSpace Gallery in Willimantic. (Owen Bonaventura/The Daily Campus)

Tess Archambault is a senior illustration major whose art will be featured in the 2017 BFA Art Show taking place Thursday, April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ArtSpace Gallery in Willimantic. (Owen Bonaventura/The Daily Campus)

This is the fifth installment of five features to spotlight UConn School of Fine Arts’ students participating in the 2017 BFA Art Show.

Tessa Archambault wouldn’t have gotten through her senior project without Netflix.

The senior illustration major at the University of Connecticut used the online streaming service to keep herself focused, rather than getting distracted, while she would spend six to eight hours a day painting each piece for her BFA show project.

Archambault is very particular when it comes to the space she works in and the process she follows. She’s often on the floor in her studio class, something her professor has come to acknowledge and allow. And when she’s home, she needs the space to be as clean as it can be, but her desk will be cluttered with paint, candles and coffee.

For the BFA show, Archambault’s piece is based around the idea of “reclaiming femininity in a misogynist culture.”

It consists of eight portraits, including one of herself, and aims to challenge “heteronormative thought” and “people’s tendencies to make assumptions about sex and sexuality based on gender performance,” she said.

In each portrait, the subject holds a bouquet of flowers – a symbol of femininity –which is meant to show they are in control of their own femininity.

She said people will probably make assumptions about the individuals she chose to represent, but in her paintings she wants to convey that you really don’t know what a person identitifes as by looking at them.

When I started applying to colleges I finally realized and acknowledged the fact that I would always find creative work to be the most personally fulfilling
— Tessa Archambault

Much of Archambault’s artwork in general revolves around the concepts of sexuality, identity and gender. She’s minoring in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies so many of the discussions she has in her classes translates to her in art.

“I’m honestly not trying to send out a clear message with my work or change people’s minds in a bold way,” Archambault said. “I make most of my work as a source of comfort for myself and hopes that other people with similar views or perceptions or experiences may find comfort or interest in the work as well.”

For the BFA show, Archambault’s piece is based around the idea of “reclaiming femininity in a misogynist culture.” (Owen Bonaventura/The Daily Campus)

For the BFA show, Archambault’s piece is based around the idea of “reclaiming femininity in a misogynist culture.” (Owen Bonaventura/The Daily Campus)

Archambault cannot pinpoint exactly what got her into illustration, but it has always been something she was drawn to since she was young.

At the time when she was preparing for college she was unsure whether to pursue a career in art or to go into something “more academic and stable,” like law.

“When I started applying to colleges I finally realized and acknowledged the fact that I would always find creative work to be the most personally fulfilling,” Archambault said.

Her inspiration for making art also comes from these ideas surrounding identity and sexuality. She said they are usually drawn from articles, books or poems that she’s read, but also sometimes from things she sees on social media.

“I’m basically just constantly frustrated with things that I perceive to be narrow-minded,” Archambault said. “With my art I usually try to make something positive or beautiful or delicate to kind of just find some peace of mind.”

Archambault said preparing for the BFA show “should have” taught her not to procrastinate, as she often does, but it didn’t.

“Because it also taught me that I can get by on very little sleep and can paint very quickly under pressure,” Archambault joked.

On a serious level, she said it helped her learn more about making a consistent body of work and how much unexpected planning and organization goes into being part of a show, something she initially thought she could just put together by “winging it.”

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Show will be held on Thursday, April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ArtSpace Gallery located on 480 Main Street in Willimantic, Connecticut. Admission is free.


Angie DeRosa is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at angelina.derosa@uconn.edu.  She tweets @theangiederosa.