Jeanette Andrews – sensory illusionist

Photo credit: Saverio Truglia

Jeanette Andrews is a sensory illusionist who specializes in creating performative, art-based interactive sensory magic, possessing a contemplative take on the art of the impossible. Andrews uses scientific oddities and sensory anomalies to bridge everyday life to a special, heightened world. With her studio based in Chicago, Andrews has staged hundreds of sold-out and standing-room-only performances at museums, theatres and universities across the United States. These include commissioned and site-specific at the International Museum of Surgical Science, Birmingham Museum of Art, and Chicago Ideas Week.  She recently completed her third series of performances for Museum of Contemporary Art, presenting “Invisible Roses,” commissioned by the museum in honor of their 50th anniversary. Her work explores how illusions construct reality and highlights astonishing aspects of everyday life via moments of the seemingly impossible. Combining influences not typically seen in magic performances such as immersive theatre, quantum physics, and philosophy, Andrews has invented a unique take on this ancient art form. She is the only magician worldwide known to be awarded an artist’s residency, including being a High Concept Labs Sponsored Artist and artist in residence for The Institute for Art and Olfaction. Illusion is Ms. Andrews’ life’s work and her performances have been praised by the Chicago Tribune and PBS. 




Can you describe something that has recently amazed you. How did it make you feel?

Going apple picking with my mom. Being surrounded by that much natural perfection is truly enchanting. Seeing sunlight cascade through rustling apple tree branches, and look looking at the unique coloration of each piece of fruit, is so special.
You describe yourself as a sensory illusionist. Could you tell me more about what that means to you? And what would you like the audience to take away from one of your performances?

For me, that means using magic and illusions as my artistic medium, to highlight our sensory perception of the world around us. I think so many truly incredible things unfold around us each moment, and I seek to utilize performances to highlight the incredible things in the natural world, especially as viewed through the lens of scientific research. I hope that my performances can spark a bit of curiosity about the world around us, and if anything I am able to contribute sparks that for anyone, I would be so honored!


What’s your artistic vision?

I seek to create work to provoke thought, spark the senses, and elicit wonder. Our daily lives are wondrous and mysterious, and my pieces center on how dynamic the process of perception truly is. My vision is to take the art of illusion back to a high art, with the prestige it held in the 1800’s by bringing it to the arts sector and presenting contemplative, personable works. I hope to subvert the traditional ‘magic’ narrative, both in form and content, removing the stereotypes of theatrical magic performances. I seek to provide the questions, and not necessarily the answers. I use these illusions, sensory anomalies and scientific oddities to bridge everyday life to a special, heightened world.

Photo Credit: David Linsell

What can be done to elevate magic as an art?

I think that the most important things that could be done to elevate magic as an art would be kindness and generosity. To always treat ones audience with as much kindness and respect as possible, and to be generous in your performances both in terms of the amount of time placed into creating them, and going above and beyond to make them as good as we can for each person.


You often work with museums and art galleries. Which of your creations/performances are you most proud of and why?

Great question… I would say The 2017 series “Invisible Roses“ that I did as a commission from Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. I spent about a year refining the technique of the performance, and experience design for the audience, which was a really special process. It was also the first time I had worked that closely with the curator (Ann Meisinger) on forming a project, which was a wonderful experience!

I’m also really excited about my October 17, 2019 performance of “Bottling the Impossible“ for the Elmhurst Art Museum. I also spent about a year working on this performance, and carries a special place in my heart, as the EAM is the first contemporary art museum that I ever visited as a young person. It also was one of the factors in driving me to think about magic in a gallery contexts as a teenager.


We met at the Science of Magic Association (SOMA) conference in Chicago where you were one of the Gala show performers. What did you learn at SOMA from the talks that could be used to improve your performances?

I was really interested in a lot of the topics surrounding memory as it pertains to magic, and formed really wonderful continuing relationships with some of the researchers present.

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