The Anatomy of Control: Fall 2019 Artist-in-residence Anna Garner

By Elizabeth Delaney for McColl Center for Art + Innovation

A broad narrative about control, both overt and underlying, weaves through the artwork of Anna Garner.

The McColl Center fall 2019 artist-in-residence dissects it, examines it, and re-presents it in intensely physical, provocative visual displays that, as she says, “break apart the space and clarify knowing it.”  

Garner’s work is largely performative and features her in various stages of interaction with inanimate objects or figures within a prescribed space. She documents the encounters as video installations and still photographs, always within environments that she designs and constructs.

Many of her pieces reference slapstick as a means of navigation, in particular, to explore how a performance appears spontaneous but, in reality, is nothing more than manufactured chaos—what she describes as “the tension between knowing and not knowing.”

Her video installation, Just Below (2016), currently on view in the third-floor gallery space here at McColl Center, harnesses this tension as Garner exerts her physical power in a repetitious act that we presume will end badly. Regardless, an air of uncertainty remains as we brace for the expected yet unexpected ending.


Also on view are two large-scale performance photographs from the Protecting Popo series (2018), wherein Garner again considers control and power, this time via physical interaction with another person. Preconceived notions about size, strength, and perceptions of power haunt these dramatic, intimate images, which loosely recall tenebrist works of the Old Masters.

Garner’s stint at McColl Center comes in the midst of a move from Los Angeles to Mexico City and a shift in her art practice. “I have recently decided to be in the studio full time, and being at McColl Center allows me to have a jumpstart into structuring my schedule and practice for this new phase of my career,” she says.

Fall 2019 artist-in-residence Anna Garner in her studio at McColl Center, October 2019. Photo by Chris Edwards for McColl Center for Art + Innovation.

One of her newest projects, currently in progress during her artist residency at McColl Center, concerns mountains and concepts of monumentality as they relate to the part of the human psyche that strives to exert control over nature. Her own experiences as a skier led her to this in-depth examination of “elective adversity and risk taking” in the face of the unknown.

“My works deal with that through fabrication,” she says. To that end, she has been working on creating stage sets of painted plywood, plastic, silicone, and paper that will eventually serve as the basis for a series of performance photographs.

The heavily abstracted mountain forms are picked apart, reassembled, scratched, smudged, and dented—noticeably manipulated by the artist to the point of parody. Garner plans to insert herself into the finished forms, manipulating and overpowering their heft to dismantle assumed power structures and stimulate a dialogue about documentary truth, actual and perceived.

Garner plans to flesh out these new ideas and others while at McColl Center, and thinking about her residency remarks, “I’m looking forward to having concentrated time to focus in the studio. Most of all, I hope to produce as much work as possible and utilize the studio space to create larger constructions for my photographs.”


Meet Garner and hear more about her artistic practice at our next Stimulus conversation—Stimulus: Space, Place, and Body—on Thursday, November 7, 2019, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. here at McColl Center.

Fall 2019 artists-in-residence Anna Garner and Pablo Rasgado, visiting artist Carolina Maki Kitagawa, UNC Charlotte College of Arts and Architecture Director of Galleries Adam Justice, and McColl Center visiting curator Laura Ritchie will discuss the use of sculpture as a medium to examine the movement of bodies in private and public space.