By Matt Valerio
I’d never heard of Long Beach artist Pippa Garner until I moved to Belmont Heights nearly 7 years ago, and I ended up stumbling upon her by accident.
My young daughter and I would often sit on the front steps of our house so she could do one of her favorite things in the world…wave at passers-by. It was in the course of these many afternoons that we noticed someone riding by on a regular basis. We saw a woman riding what appeared to be a homemade/modified version of a recumbent bike, complete with an upside-down boat, of sorts, affixed to the top to act as a shield from the elements. My daughter would always try to get her attention, but the cyclist, who was focused intently on the road, never noticed. One day, we were out and about, stopped at a red light near our house, and she pulled up next to us. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to roll down the window to say hello, but I managed to quickly see the words “Tinker Tantrum” on the bike somewhere. This sparked my curiosity even further, so I did some Googling as soon as I got home, and lo and behold, I discovered we had a bit of an art legend in our midst.
Pippa was born Philip Garner in the early 40s. She had a long-running monthly editorial page in Car and Driver magazine and ended up having some success in the Los Angeles area as a performance artist, appearing on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and The Merv Griffin Show to present some unique artistic inventions. I recommend looking up this
appearance on YouTube. Many of these inventions have appeared, whether in the form of rough sketches or fully realized prototypes, in the pages of Rolling Stone, Vogue, or the 3 books Pippa’s released over the years. She’s spent a large chunk of her life pushing boundaries, both in the art world as well as the boundaries of her
own comfort level. The latter is evidenced by her gender transition in the ‘80s, which was a self-proclaimed “art project to create disorientation in my position in society”. Everything she’s done has been absolutely fascinating. We’re only just scratching the surface here.
There’s an excellent documentary coming out about Pippa soon. It is called Pippa: Queen of the Future, and was briefly screened during the run of her most recent solo exhibit at JOAN Gallery in Los Angeles last year. She’s truly a hidden gem, and it’s wonderful that we have such an amazingly creative and inspiring human living among us.