Ava Mallett Likes To Be Culture-Shocked

Posted by: Michele Cohen

Junior Fine Arts major Ava Mallett ’17 is a “jack of all trades” when it comes to making art. She tries not to define herself by a specific subject matter, medium or style of work.

From curating her own exhibition, creating pieces of jewelry, writing for an online magazine – even creating portraits of guests at a wedding reception – Mallett has her hands in everything and eagerly takes advantage of opportunities that come her way.

“I feel like a sponge in that I need to soak up as much of the world as possible,” she said. “I’m also a naturally driven person and that leaves me with a craving to do everything.”

Mallett’s latest creative endeavor was creating a black and white backdrop to Jim Galucci’s silver bench sculpture that was hidden in Moore’s courtyard for years.

The whisper bench is now on display for the public in front of the College on Race Street. The bench has a curled tube with horns at each end through which people can whisper conversations. They can also take a selfie using the dedicated hashtag #whispermoore for social media. The bench is on display through September, 2016.

“For my design, I created a black and white illustration of silhouettes ‘whispering’ and ‘thin’ lines inspired by topographical maps surrounding them and converging in the center to read ‘Moore College of Art & Design,’” Mallett said. “I think the black and white motif makes the colors of spring ‘pop.’ People are supposed to sit on the bench and not be overwhelmed by the design, but complement it.”


When asked to describe her multifaceted studio practice in just a few sentences, Mallett admits she is “all over the map,” but very invested in “processes.” She enjoys working with her hands and manipulating images over and over again.

“I like things that take a lot of effort and intention, like jewelry making and printmaking, both of which are intense in process,” Mallett said. “A lot of my pieces involve many different steps in different mediums before they are finished.”

This semester, Mallett has focused her practice on making a set of books, called the “non-traditionals.” One book features cryptography, or transforming information, where each letter of the alphabet is associated with a different image. Another book features white ink on white pages and a third book has words that are blocked out of the story. “The books could technically be ‘read,’ though that would be difficult,” she said. “The idea is that I’m creating consumable, nice things to touch and interact with, but their main purpose has been negated.”

Mallett recently returned from a trip to Istanbul and Amsterdam with more “stories” to incorporate into her books. She documented the everyday practice of people feeding stray cats and dogs that wander around Istanbul.

“There are no animal shelters so they just hang out in the street,” she said. “I took photos of them [cats and dogs] while also writing down different quotes from the people standing in front of shops and calling people on the street to come inside. It will look like the dogs are advertising about Istanbul.”

Beyond her books, Mallett has also been working on a jewelry collection, creating armbands, pins and brooches out of non-ferrous metals. She discovered jewelry making while taking a small metals course last semester. This semester, she is taking a wheel-throwing class and plans to incorporate porcelain into some of her designs.

Mallett keeps herself busy outside of her studio space as well. Last fall, she was hired to do portraits of guests at a wedding reception in Villanova. Over the course of the evening, she completed more than 15 portraits using pencil, ink and watercolor. Using a camera to document the process, she created a time lapse video (see below) that she shared with the bride and groom.

“I’ve done a few realistic drawings and oil paintings of the human figure and I’ve been commissioned to do portraits in the past,” she said. “With contemporary art, you need to be a jack of all trades because there are so many different platforms and networks. You have to appeal to different audiences.”

Mallett currently writes articles for the art section of The Brandy Alexander, an online, opinion-based magazine for young people. Last fall, she curated a video and performance event, Are You Comfortable?, featuring 15 artists at Vox Populi’s AUX Performance Space in Philadelphia. “The whole night was curated to make the audience feel different levels of comfortability,” Mallett said. “Many galleries struggle with getting people to come for performance events, but I was able to fill the house in the AUX space.”


Mallett first learned about Moore at a Portfolio Day in Texas. She was accepted at seven of the eight colleges she applied to, but visiting the campus and receiving a scholarship from Moore sealed the deal.

“Texas doesn’t really have visual arts schools,” she said. “I thought that moving 2,000 miles away would take me out of my comfort zone, which is good. When I walked in the door, I realized that this was going to be a creative environment. I liked being in the center of a welcoming artistic community in Philadelphia and the inspiring faculty, staff and students.”

Mallett has a double minor in both Curatorial Studies and Business. She works as a student ambassador, a writer’s assistant, a peer tutor and assists in the Galleries.

One of her favorite projects has been with her Curatorial Projects class, which partnered with Park Towne Place apartments to develop a permanent exhibition for one of its 18-story towers. “This is about the most real world that it gets for a grade,” Mallett said. “Moore is all about going outside the classroom to be successful because life doesn’t end after graduation, it just begins.”

Mallett hopes to start a non-profit foundation one day and be a college arts professor. Her short-term goal is to complete her required internship in Europe next summer. She has applied for a fellowship to do photography and video documentation at the Burren College of Art in Ireland. She also plans to apply for a New York studio residency in the fall in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn.

“I always think it’s good to go out into the world and be inspired by new places and social structures,” she said. “I like to be culture-shocked.”