Crashing through: Artist and RSF native puts vulnerability on display at National Portrait Gallery

Rancho Santa Fe native Anna Garner's video performance portrait is featured in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution.

Rancho Santa Fe native and performance artist Anna Garner’s video self-portrait is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., breaking through to her authentic self by becoming a part of the action. Garner, who attended R. Roger Rowe School and graduated from Torrey Pines High School, was one of 50 artists selected for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Exhibit, an open call with more than 2,600 portrait submissions.

“I was absolutely thrilled to be accepted into the Outwin 2019 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery,” Garner said. “It is an honor to have my work in such a significant institution and surrounded by so many important and relevant artworks.”

Her work, titled “Just Below,” is a video performance in which Garner, dressed all in red, stands on a ledge in a stark white architectural environment that she built herself. Garner describes the piece as “staging her own disaster”—for most of the video all you see is her legs as she slams a pole onto the platform she is standing on. When it collapses, she crashes through, hanging from what is left of where she was standing.

Garner described how she injected her own anxiety into the space, the piece capturing “an intimate self-portrait of my body in physical uncertainty, acting out a false attempt at control.”

Anna Garner comes crashing through in her video portrait "Just Below".

Garner, 37, now splits time between Los Angeles and Mexico City, working in the mediums of video, photography, performance and sculpture. She started studying art while getting her undergraduate degree at The Evergeen State College, where she graduated in 2005. Her main focus was photography and she didn’t start working in video and performance until about seven years ago.

“In my early work and studies I was often taking self-portraits and was also studying dance, so it was a natural progression into performance,” Garner said. “I was additionally introduced to photography through my dad, who both collected photography and had a photographic practice focused on images of nature.”

In her career, Garner has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally including at The Phoenix Art Museum, the Museum aan de Stroom in Belgium, the Torrance Art Museum, ltd los angeles and ACRE Projects in Chicago. She is currently part of a group exhibition at ltd los angeles which will be up until Dec. 20 and just closed an exhibition at LMI Gallery in Mexico City.

For “Just Below,” she spent about a month to plan and build the structure and her performance was only executed one time.

“There was no practice, other than standing on the platform before starting to get a feel of the structure’s height and stability,” she said. “I did not anticipate how the piece broke and it surprised me. I thought it take longer and I did not think the plaster platform would hinge and swivel forward as it was breaking.”

Garner just finished an artist residency at McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina. While there, she worked on a large photo project, building multiple sculptures that evoke geologic forms and photographing herself within them.

“What’s next is sorting through about 35 rolls of film and countless digital images,” Garner said. “I anticipate at least a few months focused on editing and printing for this new body of work.”

To keep tabs on how it turns out, check out To view her Smithsonian performance, visit