In Your Own Backyard

garage sale
The art of the garage sale

I could argue that there is, in fact, an art to the garage sale – I’ve certainly claimed more than a few cheap treasures – but I wouldn’t imagine scouting for such in the hushed halls of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Tell that to MoMA curators who recently launched “Meta-Monumental Garage Sale” in the museum’s open and noisy atrium. Here donated items were browsed – and bought – as they might have spilled from a friend’s front porch or wide backyard. Had I been an art participant all these years and never known it?

The MoMA performance piece is the work of New York artist, Martha Rosler, who creates “art about the commonplace, art that illuminates social life,” examining the everyday by means of photography, performance, video and installation.

“While performance art may have once been considered fringe or marginal, this type of live interactive (MoMA) exhibition is increasingly a staple of mainstream museum programming,” reports Robin Pogrebin in The New York Times. She notes further performance sites at New York’s Whitney Museum, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Los Angeles Contemporary Arts Center, among others.

Closer to home, I learned that Charlottesville, Virginia native Avery Lawrence is a rising star performance artist. Now living and working in New Orleans, the 27 year old won the 2012 Grand Prize of Art Takes Miami, part of SCOPE art fair held annually in tandem with Art Basel. This year, Lawrence earned kudos for two performance pieces that imaginatively blend painting and printmaking, video, mime and more. (See Issue 4 Art pages for Lawrence’s featured work).

A 2008 graduate in visual arts from the University of Pennsylvania, Lawrence began his art career working in traditional mediums before tackling performance art. After graduation, he illustrated an edition of The Illiad and The Odyssey, and in 2011, won a contest commissioned by the Charlottesville Mural Project to cover a 5000 square foot building space. His “Hands Together” design won over 40 other submissions. Lawrence led a team of young volunteers, completing in record time the mural he describes as “a jumble of hands, some interacting, some just meandering near others, that represents how a group interacts to make a community.”


“Hands Together,” Ix Building mural, Charlottesville, Va
Hands Together Ix Building mural, Charlottesville, Va

Although Lawrence began his art career working in traditional fields of painting and illustration, his work has grown more interactive, his performance pieces now interweave media and traditional drawing, printing and painting, a creative combination that resulted in his recent Grand Prize at Art Takes Miami.

Avery Lawrence
Avery Lawrence

Lawrence, matching patterned chair strapped in place, prepares for take-off of his interactive family tale.

One day, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lawrence’s original performances staged and applauded at MoMA. In the meantime, I wonder what other treasures might be discovered in our own backyards.


Elizabeth Howard, Art Editor


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