Virginia Overton’s Rugged Elegance

High Line Art
Nov 13, 2012 3:52PM

Hidden between the shiny cars in Chelsea’s tiered parking lot rests a modest looking pickup truck. At first this 1994 2WD Toyota appears to be another lone vehicle waiting to be retrieved, but as the brick-filled bed begins to materialize questions arise. Well that’s strange, who leaves bricks in their truck? Then the pieces start to fall into place.

Virginia Overton’s HIGH LINE COMMISSION Untitled, 2012 draws attention, contemplation, and confusion as people marvel at the enclosed bed. While some might search for concealed intent, Overton’s simple act exudes meaning through minimalism. Trucks are an iconic American vehicle embodying notions of hard work, rural life, and family gatherings. They are embedded in America’s car obsessed culture as a symbol of the modern day cowboy. Positioning her truck on a raised pedestal commemorates the history of this icon while the heavy load references the physical endurance of man and machine.  

Bringing her rugged, southern aesthetic to the East Coast has challenged accepted notions of found objects. Instead of hiding her simple materials, she showcases their humble nature through embracing imperfections caused by time. This ability to arrange common materials in a witty, yet poetic manner, informs her artistic practice, affording her a spot in L Magazine’s, 5 Art Stars You Need to Know. 

The truck, a recurring presence in her work, has become a signifier of Overton who views these vehicles as contemporary moving sculptures. She has driven from Virginia to Tennessee collecting roadside debris in an itinerant performance piece that culminated in an RV attachment filled with her friend’s work. This collective act of construction illustrates Overton’s interest in the inherent properties of raw materials. 

Testing the limits of the trustworthy pick-up truck, Overton’s High Line Art Commission will endure inclement weather throughout its year sojourn. In order to demonstrate her trust in their fortitude, she chose her personal vehicle as artistic material. Despite searching for an alternate option, nothing matched the weathered beauty of her hardworking truck. This decision endows Overton’s work with a narrative quality that is further propelled by the kitschy duck decal adorning the rear window.

A popular topic of discussion among viewers, this southern flourish conjures associations, stories, and myths. For Overton this decal, which came with the truck when she bought it, recalls a childhood in Tennessee hunting with her father. Whether familiar or distant, the image incites imagination and discussion endowing her piece with a hard-to-come-by accessibility.

Finding beauty not only in form but also in use value, Overton aims to enliven objects by repurposing their functionality. Whether wedging pedestals in a room or floating a ladder between walls, Overton illuminates how objects, much like man, have duties to perform and legacies to endure. Her truck has so far survived a hurricane and a nor’easter, and will continue to stand as a testament to the spirit of America.

-High Line Art

Untitled, 2012. Photo by Austin Kennedy.

High Line Art