Pippa Garner


Pippa Garner

September 22 - October 22

Friday, September 22, 6 to 8 pm

Saturdays and Sundays from September 22nd to October 22nd or by appointment

Presented by OCDChinatown in collaboration with Art Omi, Ghent, NY
Curated by Sara O’Keeffe, Emmet Pinsky, and Liutas van Hook

Pippa Garner (b. 1942, Evanston, IL) passed the first part of her career as an eccentric conceptualist parodying American consumerism. Trained in automotive design, she took on the custom-car fetish, flipping a Chevy on its chassis and driving it across the Golden Gate Bridge (Backwards Car, 1973–74), and blending a Buick with a speedboat to make a fully operational “land yacht” (Long Time No Sea, 1986). She mashed up mass-market merchandise, publishing her hybrid products in the Better Living Catalog (1982), an artist’s book in drag as a mail-order brochure: life-hack gags like a shower-in-a-can, high-heeled roller skates, and the half-suit, a cropped blazer for men. Her work fell on the safe side of satire, and she was mainstreamed into middle-class respectability on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where she hawked her inventions—while dressed in the half-suit, natch.

But by the mid-’80s, Garner was bored. She turned her attention to herself, then a middle-aged straight white cis-male—the ultimate readymade in need of assistance. Her identity was a cultural “artifact,” her gender ready to be “hacked,” and her body “just another product” awaiting adjustment (all quotes from the artist). Interested in exploring a different kind of “consumer technology,” Garner started taking estrogen and later underwent multiple surgeries. She has referred to her decade-long transition as an art project, an experiment, self-alienation as creative stimulant, and something of a bargain: “It only cost me about five thousand dollars,” she says of her vaginoplasty. “For that much money what could I get, a five-year-old Honda?” Since then, Garner’s customization of the self—as irreverent as it is transgressive—has been central to her work. 

For “Pippa Garner: I’m With Me,” OCDChinatown has transformed into a garage sale displaying three bodies of work. Spanning the last thirty years, they showcase Garner’s approach to life as advertisement and art. On the walls hang blown-up personal ads that the artist placed in San Francisco weeklies in the 1990s. These jumble the language of salesmanship, sex, and science fiction: “Virtual Womanoid 2000,” “sex-changed cybervixen,” “evolutionary prototype”—“post-genetic” and “fully programmable,” “it’s the human interface of tomorrow.” Not turned on by this “hermaphrodisiac”? “That’s OK,” she teases, “I’m happy just to keep me for myself.”

The second series began in the early 2000s when Garner moved her messaging to a new medium, making a t-shirt a day (“Shirtstorm”). Using retro iron-on letters and shirts sourced from eBay, she collages found images with her own slogans: “Obscurity Guard,” “Imposter Child,” “L3—Late-Life Lesbian,” ”I’m 70 . . . But My Tits Are Only 25!” For this exhibition, fashion house Eckhaus Latta has reimagined Garner’s t-shirts in a form of sartorial fan art, adding her iconic epigrams to thirteen shirts from their recent archives. Each top is unique and priced at $400, with 100% of sales going to Garner.

For those seeking more permanent modification, OCDChinatown offers a tattoo parlor. Leading queer/trans tattoo artists—such as Winona Sloane Odette, Ashe Kilbourne, Kaur Alia Ahmed, Ocean Gao, and others—have chosen texts and drawings by Garner to inject directly into the skin of her biggest fans, either within the space of the exhibition or in the privacy of their own studios. Some favorites include the phrase “Monstrosity Garage” arcing over a reverse-frame pickup truck; a woman’s head popping out of an open box; and the simple yet elegant motto “I’m with Me.” The lineup will feature Dawn Purnell, who inked Garner’s own legendary trompe l’oeil tattoos: an American oak–grained wooden leg (inspired by Magritte), red-and-white bra slipping off one shoulder (“I never could find a bra that fit, being 6'3½" and athletic”), and blue G-string stuffed with Monopoly money (“I don’t want to be half-naked”). Appointments can be requested via the OCDChinatown website beginning in mid-September. Voyeurs are welcome to watch.

-Nikki Columbus

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of the OCD Times at the gallery, featuring images of Garner’s work and reprints of her personal ads.

The related exhibition “Pippa Garner: $ELL YOUR $ELF” is on view at Art Omi in Ghent, New York, until October 29, accompanied by a monograph (co-published by Art Omi and Pioneer Works Press) that offers a kaleidoscopic introduction to Garner’s work from the 1960s to the present.

Pippa Garner lives and works in Long Beach, California. Her drawings, photographs, sculptures, and performances have been published in magazines and exhibited at museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In the past few years, Garner’s work has been the subject of major exhibitions, such as “Immaculate Misconceptions” (JOAN, Los Angeles, 2021) and the traveling exhibition “Act Like You Know Me” (Kunstverein München, 2022; Kunsthalle Zürich, 2023; FRAC Lorraine, Metz, France, 2023), soon to be presented at White Columns, New York; the accompanying catalogue will be released this fall. A facsimile edition of Garner’s Better Living Catalog (1982) is now available from Primary Information, New York.

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75 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002

Saturdays and Sundays 12-6pm
or by appointment

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