Art by Avery Lawrence

image of worker with blue box on back
Gatherer II, ink, gouache on paper, 24” x 36″. Photo by Emily Nelson.


Charlottesville performance artist Avery Lawrence recently claimed the Grand Prize of Art Takes Miami 2012 competition. The “edgy,” contemporary SCOPE art fair was held in early December concurrently with Art Basel. Lawrence’s interactive, winning show, Arranging Suitcases, is an imaginative mix of painting, film and performances based on “personal memories” turned into “visual yarns.” His first daily performance, Assembling the Instrument, was inspired by his paternal grandmother “who picks up with a new man and a new life after her husband’s death (from a brain aneurysm).” Lawrence reenacts a video scene dramatizing his grandmother’s journey in which he assumes her character by “wearing” huge suitcases on his back that he carries across a canal, a street and railroad tracks “to represent all modes of transportation.”

The Stationary Bibarisousaphone
The Stationary Bibarisousaphone. Photo by Andrew Slater.

The suitcases contain pieces of an instrument of Lawrence’s creation dubbed the Stationary Bibarisousaphone. The instrument is comprised of two baritone bells welded onto a lazy susan, a sousaphone body and a stationary bike. Lawrence silently assembles his musical marvel on the spot before his audience. Then he pedals the stationary bike and the baritone bells spin. “In the final scenes, I blow the horns,” he says. “They make a discordant and adorable noise, blowing off tragedy and celebrating a new life.”


image of man carrying chair on back
A Show. Photo by Emily Nelson.


Lawrence’s second performance, A Show, was invented with his late grandfather in mind, “a part-time thespian and gregarious man, who in the piece pretends to woo my grandmother, who’s channeled in (fanciful floral) wallpaper designs and a wing back chair strapped to my back,” says the twenty-seven year old artist. Outfitted in a three piece suit and skimmer hat, Lawrence plays his grandfather as a “flawed street-performer magician” miming bungled tricks but ultimately winning his lady—and his interactive audience—with a tap dancing, heel clicking, mid-air finish.

Lawrence’s latest performance pieces expand on earlier variations that were shown at the Parse Gallery in New Orleans, the 1708 Gallery in Richmond, Va. and the Heiner Contemporary gallery in Washington, DC.

He is completing a video for The Drop, a New Orleans subscription art collective and working on the last of his family film trilogy, a piece including the digging of a canal between two swimming pools.


Heel Click, man jumping in air next to chair
Heel Click. Photo by Ross McDermott.


Before his junior year, Lawrence attended the Governor’s School summer residency Art program hosted at the University of Richmond. He earned his degree in visual studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. After graduation, Lawrence illustrated a press edition of The Iliad and Odyssey, and won a mural contest that covered a 5000 square exterior space on Charlottesville’s downtown Ix building.

Lawrence’s work is described as “a multimedia exploration of memory, family narrative and society, relative to material form and physical activity.”

“When going to art shows and galleries,” he says, “I was frustrated that I couldn’t access or feel connection between the viewer and the artist. I’m trying to find ways to interact with the audience and make art more of a participatory experience. That’s more fun for me. I’m interested in all aspects of art and want to find ways to bring them all together as I go forward.”

To view more of Lawrence’s work, visit his website


–Elizabeth Howard, Art Editor

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