Checking in with Avery Lawrence

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 Tell us about your day job. 

My day job is my studio called The POMP, located in Random Row Books. I call it a studio and print shop. I will have screen printing equipment and hopefully other stuff soon, but right now there’s a screen print station, a computer, lots of drawing and painting materials, and lots of other material with which I can make other objects. 

What are you working on right now? 

Avery Lawrence, an illustrator, printer and performance artist, is pictured at Lower Sherwood Farm, which provides the llama dung he uses to make some of the paper he incorporates in his projects at The POMP.

I’ve been working on masks for performance pieces. I just did an “endurance performance” piece on the Downtown Mall, entited “Grrr vol. 2.0.” I created a large, animal-like mask—some called it a pinecone, others thought it was an owl’s head—and I went shirtless with a mask and had a rowing machine that I retrofitted, so that it functioned as a fan. I set up a chair across from the fan and rowed for two hours on the Downtown Mall to provide some relief from the heat for pedestrians walking by.

I’m also preparing for a trip to New York, to meet with some more clients for my studio. I’m meeting with people from Penguin Books and also some independent book and arts consultant people. One is a woman from the Onassis Foundation, a cultural foundation that connects Greeks and Americans, sharing information for Americans interested in Greece, and Greeks interested in the United States. She’s interested in the prints I did for a book of The Iliad and The Odyssey, published by Chester River Press. I did 50 large illustrations for that.  

What’s your favorite building? 

Jeanne-Claude just passed away, but Christo is still around. He’s got a plan to make this massive pyramid of oil barrels. I just saw a plan of that recently, and if that were to exist, it would be my favorite building/structure. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to go up in the United Arab Emirates.

What’s your first artistic memory? 

My dad would do these basic outlines of military vehicles and have me color them in, which guided the rest of my drawing in my early youth. I tended to create fantastical, military hovercrafts, snow machines and things like that. My dad is not in the military—he’s a lawyer in town—so I don’t know why he did that. 

Tell us about a piece of art that you wish was in your private collection.

I would really like a Chuck Close portrait, those monumental portraits, but really any of his work from any medium, to hang in my studio’s foyer. I saw him speak when I was in school at UPenn, and I was very impressed with how he described his art and carried himself. He had specific ideas and a system that drove his work and I was impressed when I was in college to see a professional artist and his reasons and love for production.

Locally, who would you like to collaborate with? 

Patrick Costello. He’s a community activist, he’s involved with C’ville Foodscapes, and he’s a puppet maker. We have been making plans to collaborate based around mask-making and interaction of characters we make. We talked about doing a garden installation with performances to go along with it. It’s going to be in Charlottesville, definitely.

Item you’d splurge on? 

Well, I just did. I bought a 20′ long, 1989, former USPS mail truck from a guy in Syracuse, New York. I’m going to use it for a mobile print studio. There’s a national printmaking conference every year, and next year it’s in St. Louis. A friend and I proposed to do a demonstration, and our proposal was accepted. We’re going to set up the retro-fitted mail truck in front of an art museum in St. Louis, create a station from which we’ll make prints and then receive telephone calls to take and deliver orders around town using the mail truck.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? 

I would be in a band and be up on stage. It would definitely involve costumes. I don’t know if it would fall in the vein of Lady Gaga but it would be a Lady Gaga, Blue Man Group and David Bowie hybrid.

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