With long, scarlet ringlets and a dancer’s physique, local performance artist Joy Poulard creates large-scale canvas works using squirt bottles of paint, her body and uncommon tools like a broom and palm fronds — all while moving to music.
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in California and Jacksonville (where she moved at the age of 10), Poulard graduated from Mandarin High School and received a fine arts degree in painting and drawing from the University of North Florida. “I wasn’t very ambitious in high school,” Poulard admitted. “I did a lot of modeling as a teenager in New York. I don’t regret that. It was a whole other world, and it was a great experience.”
After graduating from UNF, Poulard spent time in Washington, D.C., getting to know her roots. “I’m the oldest of 10 siblings,” she said. “My biological parents gave me up for adoption, but ended up staying together and having nine more kids. I consider myself a universal sister because I was raised an only child of mixed race.”
As both a dancer and a visual artist, Poulard has channeled that experience into Sister Feathertoe, an alter ego that her website explains as “a modern shaman woman who is both a sister and a sista, spreading the universal ‘gospel’ of song and dance.”
Though it’s easier to watch a video of Poulard’s performance (bit.ly/TNp9HZ), textually it can be described like this: Poulard takes an unmounted canvas and lays it flat on the ground, then she pours paint from squeeze bottles directly onto the canvas. Next, she moves the paint around the canvas using her hands, feet and “paint brushes” of a broom and palm fronds choreographed to music.
“Body-manipulated paint creates layers of color fields, lines and images. As a result, each painting consists of up to eight paint-danced layers,” Poulard said. “Hand-painted details are occasionally added to complete the work.”
After D.C., Poulard moved to Brooklyn where she spent five years working in theater; touring as a modern dancer and performance artist; singing as frontwoman for cabaret, jazz and rock bands; and recording for The Living Theatre label. Put simply, Poulard is a renaissance woman.
Upon returning to Jacksonville last year, 31-year-old Poulard says it was around the same time that she was hit with the concept of paint dancing, an art form that combines paint and dance to create works of art. “I’ve been performing most of my life,” Poulard said. “And I’ve always done field dancing where I go into a field, put on headphones and just dance to the music I love.”
As Sister Feathertoe, Poulard fuses her love of movement with her love of visual art. She counts Jackson Pollock and the “masterful balance between abstraction and representationalism” of Gustav Klimt as influences. So far this year, she’s performed as Sister Feathertoe with a solo show at Southlight Gallery and at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville’s ArtWalk for ReFocus: Art of the 1960s exhibition.
“We called it a ‘multimedia happening’ and a ‘participatory event,’” Poulard explained of this past April’s MOCA exhibit. “We recreated the Human Be-In, a 1967 event that happened in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park [as a symbol of American counterculture]. The museum reported the highest turnout they’ve ever had from any Art Walk.”
To pay the bills, Poulard is the youth coordinator for an after-school program at the Jewish Community Alliance. She self-funded and produced both paint dancing shows for MOCA saying, “They’re pretty expensive to put together. We’re always in need of sponsorship and support, especially as my collaborators andI continue to develop this work.”
For the upcoming show at MOCA, “ReFocus: Art of the 1980s,” Poulard’s paint dancing performance will take place during a recreation of New Year’s Eve 1986 in New York City’s East Village. “It’s going to be about paying homage to icons of the ‘80s,” she says referring to Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Poulard’s performance includes music, projections and “maybe even some audience participation.”
“I like the idea of painting being a performative experience and allowing music to drive it,” Poulard said. “Painting can become lonely.”