This Magician's Trick? Blending Art, Philosophy, Physics and Performance

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 25, 2018 | Go to article overview

This Magician's Trick? Blending Art, Philosophy, Physics and Performance


As Wheaton native Jeanette Andrews gives her takes on Plato, theater, French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex," quantum physics, her installations at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sopolsky's book about free will, her artist's residency at The Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles, the martial arts classes she taught with her mom or her friendship with prizewinning Fermilab physicist Luciano Ristori, you struggle to figure her out.

And then, ta-da! The 28-year-old pulls away the curtain to reveal her true identity.

"I'm a magician," says Andrews, who has been saying that since she was a 4-year-old making plastic balls vanish before the eyes of astonished preschool classmates. "And I am an artist. I very much use magic as my medium in the same way a sculptor uses clay and marble."

Her days of "now you see it, now you don't" have evolved into a career as a performing artist and "sensory illusionist" who still seems to bend glass or bring a flower back to life but uses "art-based interactive sensory magic" to illustrate "a contemplative take on the art of the impossible."

The Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned her to create her performance called "Invisible Roses" in honor of its 50th anniversary last year.

Her performances engage audiences in ideas about certainty and being hidden in plain sight, and, well, I don't know the best words to describe what she does.

"I'm glad you can't describe it. That makes me happy," Andrews says.

Even my description of the first trick she learned in preschool as the old "ball and vase" gimmick doesn't do it justice. "Historically, it's called the Morrison Pill Box," says Andrews, who has read enough books to become an expert in the history of magic.

Her start came in 1994, when her parents, Mike and Caryn Andrews, let her watch "Siegfried & Roy. the Magic. the Mystery." TV special. "My mom somehow sensed something special," Andrews says. "She made it an event."

By January 1995, Andrews was on her way to making magic her career, performing 15 minutes of tricks for fellow preschoolers on a sequined tablecloth made by her grandma, Gail Clarke. In response to her fan letter, Siegfried & Roy invited her to their show in Las Vegas. At age 6, Andrews became a professional, performing at the Butterfield Park District for preschoolers.

"They offered me 10 bucks," remembers Andrews, who immediately told her parents that she still couldn't afford the $30 magic book she wanted. …

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