Neal Baer Collection

Pippa Garner



Pencil on paper

11 × 8.5 in. / 27.94 x 21.59 cm

Image courtesy of the artist and Stars Gallery, Los Angeles

Drawmatic is part of Garner’s “Immaculate Misconceptions” series of invented gadgets or absurd devices involving repurposed household or commonplace store-bought items. Many of these are collected in three books published in the 1980s: Better Living Catalog: 62 Absolute Necessities for Contemporary Survival (Putnam, 1982), Utopia—or Bust! Products for the Perfect World (Putnam, 1984), and Gizmos & Gadgets (Perigee Trade, 1987). Garner would sometimes fabricate these inventions but they mostly remained in drawing form. Posturing as a mail order catalog featuring improbable and whimsical devices, the Better Living Catalog parodied consumer goods while simultaneously critiquing America’s obsession with ingenuity, efficiency, leisure, and comfort. It was popular when it was published, earning Garner spots on nighttime TV talk shows and attention from magazines like Vogue and Rolling Stone. One of Garner’s most significant works, the Backwards Car, 1974, was facilitated by Esquire, which agreed to pay for a used Chevrolet, the body of which was removed from its chassis by Garner – who did all of the mechanical work herself – then flipped around and refastened, so the car appeared to be driving backwards when it was moving forwards and vice-versa. 

Drawmatic is a portrait of a lawnmower engine transformed into a mechanical artist, rendering a portrait of a buff female body flexing her muscles. Drawing parallels between the human body – and especially the artist’s body – as a customizable machine, the work presages Garner’s later “gender hacking” actions on her own body. A few years after the Better Living Catalog was published, Garner started experimenting with taking estrogen and soon sold a Ruscha print the artist had given her to pay for breast implants. Garner eventually had a vaginoplasty:

At that point, I’d decided to do something that was really disorienting. I always felt like I was the most creative when I was the least comfortable. It’s the edge that you need to get that mechanism going, the so-called creative juices flowing. I had the feeling that if I did something that drastic, I’d always be a bit on the outside looking in and have to adjust to that and honor that, and it might stimulate a level of creativity that I’ve never known. I think it paid off.

Nicole Miller, “Everything is Objectification: An Interview with Pippa Garner,” X-tra, Fall 2019, Volume 22, Number 1

Garner has characterized her body modification as an artistic project that draws conceptual parallels to the altered consumer goods she has continued to create since the 1970s. The artist’s practice has always been about hacking—gender hacking, she stated, was “an excellent premise for maverick conceptual art and diametrically opposed to anything I’d ever done.”

Pippa Garner (b. 1942, Evanston, formerly known as Philip Garner) is an American artist, illustrator, industrial designer, and writer. Garner was drafted as an US Army Combat Artist while working at a car factory assembly line and learned how to draw while documenting the Vietnam War. While briefly studying in the automotive design department at ArtCenter College of Design in Los Angeles, Garner was expelled after presenting her year-end project, a modified model of a 1960s car whose back part morphed into naked legs of a man, one of these legs raised as a dog would when peeing, over a map of Detroit. Garner then turned to photography and drawing, and drawing would comprise the bulk of her visual practice. From the 2000s, Garner started producing T-Shirts with sardonic slogans and images, one featuring the actor Nick Nolte and the words “I pay my stalker a living wage” in all caps.

Garner’s work skewers the American cult of transcendence through gadgetry but does so from the perspective of a self-exiled devotee. Here, the archetype of the garage inventor doggedly pursuing unrealizable plans is not a laughable figure but a hero, precisely because this figure operates somewhere outside capitalism, beyond the market and the commodity, aiming to single-handedly transform the stuff of the world. Perusing her “wares,” we were reminded that all inventors were once also amateurs. 

Jan Tumlir, Artforum, November 2019


Stars, Los Angeles

See also

Pippa Garner at Stars

Nicole Miller, “Everything is Objectification: An Interview with Pippa Garner,” X-tra, Fall 2019, Volume 22, Number 1

“$ELL YOUR SELF,” Art Omi, Ghent, New York, June 24 – October 29, 2023

Pippa Garner, “Act Like You Know Me,” September 24 – November 13, 2022

Hammer Museum, Made in L.A. 2023, “Pippa Garner”

Pippa Garner, “Immaculate Misconceptions,” JOAN, Los Angeles, September 18 – December 18, 2021

Jan Tumlir, “Pippa Garner at O-Town House,” Artforum, November 2019

Evan Moffitt, “Pippa Garner’s Wild Ride,” The New York Times, June 30, 2023

Pippa Garner in the Contemporary Art Library

Cassie Packard, “Pippa Garner: ‘I Could Never Get Enough Pussy So I Built One In’”, ArtReview, February 7, 2024

“Better Living Catalog”

“Act Like You Know Me” catalogue