Laura Larson is an artist from Chicago, Illinois. Her work encourages self–initiated discovery as an antidote to the media’s hypnotic propaganda. Larson achieves this by creating sculptural objects that are approachable-- that invite the viewer to investigate another level or levels of meaning.
She has stated, “Each object is worthy of examination, yet much more powerful when combined as a whole piece. Ultimately I want the viewer to feel uplifted about his or her own uniqueness, and at the same atime more aware of our connections to each other.”
Larson has an extensive exhibition history-- including solo exhibits at Kristi Engle Gallery, HAUS Gallery, and the Riverside Art Museum. She studied art at Carthage College and UCLA.
Laura Larson -- Tableaux for "The Clearing"
Brian Sherwin: Laura, tell us about your academic background. Did you study art formally? What about influential instructors that you have had?
Laura Larson: I graduated from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1973 with a B.A. in Fine Art and Speech Communications and Theatre Arts. I specialized in print making because we had a really good printmaker named Joe Rozman. Being that we were close to the Chicago area, the influences of the Chicago Imagists and the “Hairy Who,” were felt. This group which included Jim Nutt and Ed Paschke, was fiercely independent from New York/East Coast trends and felt that art should have motivation and content other than Camp and quotation. However, my attention was really split between Art and Theatre. Our theatre program was small but highly developed and participated in major regional competitions. Everyone did everything. I worked on props, costumes, painted backdrops and became a fairly decent character actor.
Moving to L.A. in 1978 I took a weekend “Doing by Doing” performance art class with Rachel Rosenthal, a highly acclaimed performance artist. I have taken other various classes through UCLA Extension over the years for printmaking, drawing and, a class in 3-D computer rendering called Form Z to better visual public art projects.
Laura Larson -- Baby Crone
BS: Tell us about the thoughts behind your art. Can you give our readers some insight into any specific themes that you explore?
My work is generated by curiosity about the nature of our nature – our body, mind and spirit – as well as our relationship to the planet and the universe beyond. Yes, the big picture. But since no one can ever see the entire picture, I have spent time working on selected categories, one by one, from the interior to the exterior and back again in some apparent spiraling motion.
In the recent past I investigated the nature of beauty and self-esteem. I wondered just how important youth and beauty are in regard to a woman’s self worth. In my installation The Looking Glass Lounge I decided to re-examine the value of beauty and its affect on our self-esteem and to see if we, as women, carry the same issues as our female ancestors. Moving from the very interior notions of “the Lounge” I began to look outward and at the human figure itself. Another installation called Epidermis Emporium examines our ambivalent or dichotomous relationship with our bodies’ sacred (honored) and profane (misused) aspects – using the shape of the dress form as a stand in for the human body.
Now I am moving a bit further outward and am including the animal world in my purview. I visit the zoo regularly and wonder what will happen to all of these species in the coming years. Will we resolve the issue of global warming and its effects? Why did we come to this disconnect? Can we learn to cherish the earth and its inhabitants again? I ask these questions as I create my next project.
Laura Larson -- Lady Pink
BS: Is there a specific message you strive to convey to viewers concerning your art?
LL: When I was a young artist I read a book called “Seth” by Jane Roberts. The message that Seth set forth in the book was that we “create our own reality.” This became my mantra or message for my art, and I wanted to share it with everyone. Now I believe that each person must find their own way, belief system or structure to make sense of the world. So I try not to be didactic about messages. However, if there is a message I am striving to convey it is to care. I mean really care about one’s self, one’s fellow human beings, our fellow inhabitants on this planet and the planet itself.
BS: What can you tell us about your process in general? Give us some insight into how you work… as in turning an idea into reality, so to speak? Can you discuss some of the methods that you utilize?
What I do is try to create an atmosphere for exploration of the subject matter. My work is definitely content oriented but is presentational in nature so that any conclusions should come from the viewer’s own perspective. My intention in the execution of the work is to make it approachable, and then to invite the viewer to consider another level or levels of meaning. Humor is important in my work as the means of approach.
Here’s what happened with my newest project, “Nearly Beloved.” I read somewhere that plant and animal species were becoming extinct at a rate of 40 per day. I was shocked and I wanted to learn more and then to shine a light on the animal world. Then I became motivated to go to the zoo, draw animals, ask questions, write a lot in my notebooks. I seem to need to set my art works within some framework. So in this case I decided it should be an atelier where these artifacts are collected by a time keeper.
The concept is everything in my work. It all revolves around the concept. For “Nearly Beloved” I am examining the dichotomy of wild/domestic, control/chaos, male/female energies which translate into painting/embroidery, real/fabricated materials. Then I draw and dream and generally I see the piece before I make the piece. Generally I have many images in my head and am working on 3 or 4 at a time. I also like to think up things that would be challenging to make and then figure out how to do it.
The process also ties into my personal domestic life. I walk in the hills and pick up sticks, branches, burrs, seeds – mother nature’s cast offs. I take them home and combine them with domestic materials such as fabric and embroidery. A stick becomes a unicorn horn. A shelf holds a group of salt shakers, each one preserving (in salt) a dead bee I have collected from my balcony. An encounter with an ostrich at the zoo becomes a portrait revealing her sense of humor, encouraging the viewer to consider her domestication for food and the “Folies Bergere” nature of the feathers that frame her.
Laura Larson -- Ode to Joan x Millions
BS: What about influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists, world events, or art movements?
LL: Betty and Alison Saar (narrative and mythological), Terry Allen (poetic installations), Kiki Smith (body art and fairy tales), Orly Cogan (embroidered drawings about domestic issues), Nancy Jackson (delicate evocative sculptures), Kate Clark (hybrid animal/humans), Brancusi (master of the understated) and Bernini (master of animated baroque sculpture), The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, CA (wildly atmospheric and mysterious)
The feminist art movement of the 1970’s in which I was a member of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party. Currently – the fire storms of Los Angeles and the plight of the changing earth and its inhabitants
Laura Larson -- Earth Form
BS: Where can your art be viewed at this time? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?
LL: The past decade was very busy for me with 7 public art projects and several solo shows. The last year or so I have been taking a breather and focusing on a completely new body of work. I am just now starting to look for appropriate venues. (When one does installations, there are a lot more things to consider for both the artist and the venue.)
BS: Do you have any concerns about the art world at this? There has been a lot of debate recently about copyright and the rights of artists. Do you have an opinion on issues such as that?
LL: I am concerned about artists’ rights. In Los Angeles Kent Twitchell’s amazing mural of Ed Ruscha (which he considered his masterpiece) was obliterated overnight by people who didn’t really understand what it was and didn’t care that it was supposed to be protected by copyright. What really concerns me about this is that the average person cares very little about art.
I think the reason is twofold. If the arts in general and visual arts in particular were thought to be an important component to a person’s well rounded education and introduced to people at an early age, then perhaps the average person wouldn’t be so intimidated by art and would care more about it. On the other hand the art world has become highly specialized and pretty elite. As a result visual art is not a necessary part of most people’s lives unless you consider TV art.
I am pleased to see that the economic stimulus package has reinstituted the original funding of $50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts. This is a good sign for arts organizations as well as artists. Perhaps there will be a surge to include more art and art programs into popular culture and for more artists to be recognized as contributors.
BS: What about the internet? One could say that the art world is starting to catch up-- more galleries are turning to the World Wide Web in order to further exposure for their artists. How do you think the internet will impact the art world in say… a decade? Can you see a meshing between the traditional market and alternative (online) markets taking shape?
LL: I think we all better get good at photoshop because I am guessing that there will be a lot more art seen on the internet in virtual galleries than in actual galleries. I think the internet is great. I love myartspace.com because I am being exposed to so many more artists from all over the world. It’s like a breath of fresh air. My only fear is that I will disappear one day into cyberspace.
Laura Larson -- Marie Antoinette
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the goals that you have?
LL: My goal is always to find that state of grace which allows me to be in contact with my muse. That is where I make my best work. I strive to be open and truthful in my work. I hope that whatever truth is revealed to me is something that I can translate into compelling work.
You can learn more about Laura Larson by visiting her website-- www.larsonart.net. Laura Larson is currently a member of the myartspace.com community. You can view her myartspace.com account by clicking, HERE . You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- www.myartspace.com/interviews.
Take care, Stay true,
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