LINDA LARSON AND THE TRANSFORMATIVE
With a hint of a Scottish accent, her hair blowing around her small, pointed face, it's easy to see why Linda Larson chooses her subjects from nature and mythology. She looks like a wild, mythological creature herself -- a wood nymph, or a tree sprite. Her works are incredibly detailed and complicated, but mischievous, perhaps a little twisted. She certainly intends it that way.
So many people remark about the one painting I did of the faunish creature with the horns, as if it was something malevolent. I did it on a whim, and it was meant to be an impish gesture. I got into some heavy discussions with those horns, I can tell you. I have another painting with a stone angel on it, and she has little cloven hooves. Oh, people freak when they see that! Meeting the public gives you a whole new perspective on life. Sometimes it can be positive, and you'll actually get good, wonderfully insightful comments on aspects that you hadn't picked up on yourself yet. An intuitive audience can give you inspiration for other paintings.
I was wandering around Europe when I got sick in Italy. The family who were running the youth hostel where I was staying wanted a mural painted on the dining room wall. As they say in these parts, it was an offer I couldn't refuse.
It took me six months, because I'd never painted a mural before, and because I had to spend a lot of the day explaining or apologizing for what I was doing. They gave me a photograph of the view to Capri, but they could literally see this same view out of their front window, so I thought I'd jazz it up a little by emphasizing the elaborate and interwoven plant life in the foreground.
Thus began my on-going vegetation fetish.
Even though Larson has drawn on nature and the pagan background of her Scottish heritage, her work definitely goes beyond even the unusual nature of myth. Sometimes her paintings look as if someone has taken a giant piece of clay and molded it into a special form that has no edges or boundaries. Even the frames are part of the art, so her paintings look more like adorned sculptures. How does she achieve this special look?
What I try to do in my paintings is incorporate the whole work so it flows over the edges and ceases to be the conventional rectangular format of a painting contained within an unrelated frame. In these pieces I've constructed a wood and driftwood base and painted on many coats of gesso, and it becomes very heavy, almost like a stone. It's a lot more satisfying to me than just painting on canvas, because it has weight and texture. Then it feels like a bit of antiquity to me.
I admire Medieval artists, who usually painted on wood, oil over wood has a unique quality. The light reflects off it differently. I generally put a lot of random base colors down, in the hope that they'll glow through the finished piece. There's a lot of luck in making a successful and/or satisfying painting.
I use traditional painting methods; fat over lean. I start out with very transparent layers and build up depth gradually. I keep everything very transparent to begin with then to get things moving I roughly block out my initial idea. My more successful paintings aren't over-planned, They just appear when I'm not paying too much attention. I only run into difficulties when I'm rushed or I over-commit myself. If I force something then I'm sure to have to go back afterwards and re-work it.
Luck has started to be kind to Larson lately. As one of the new generation of California visionaries, she missed most of the extremely dry period for visionary art during the 1980's, and is now enjoying the resurgence of popularity in this type of artwork.
In the beginning I didn't ever consider that I could actually earn a living from my art until I was showing my work to some other artists in a critique, and to my astonishment one offered to buy a piece. I was just so amazed that anyone would actually offer me money for art that I so enjoyed making.
After that encouragement I participated in a few group shows and then at San Francisco open studios a man who had a small gallery in North Beach bought a lot of my early work, and most of it's still in his gallery! I guess he thought because my prices were so cheap, he could re-sell them and still make a profit. And he was an odd character; he wouldn't tell me that he was buying the pieces to re-sell, he kept saying that he had 'people' who were interested in them. And I was thrilled, thinking I had a whole legion of admirers, only to find out it was just him, yanking my chain!
Attention out there all art dealers and buyers -- no more yanking Larson's chain! Her husband, poor overworked computer designer that he is, wants to get back into his basement studio and resume his own painting career (at least, Larson is certain he will do so soon, after a year off in computerland). Hubby has an interesting style of his own; all his paintings are 12" square, the size of a computer screen. Will there be any baby artists added to the Larson house -- that strange and colorful little house in San Francisco, painted four different shades on the outside, multi-colored jewelled handles on the kitchen cupboards?
I don't have children, and I can't imagine having any -- the thought is so hideous. I have a friend who had a baby, and she stopped painting. She was good, and she just ceased. The problem with having a baby is that you're having to take care of it all the time. Also, I work with lots of toxics, and I worry about that -- I don't mind ruining my own body, but I'd sure feel bad about ruining some poor thing that never asked for it. The baby didn't make that choice.
Larson told us about never having a baby when we first met; she now has a baby of her own. The mothering urge takes over once again...hideous or not. To see more of her art, go to her website: www.lindalarsonartist.com. To send her an e-mail message, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The article has been re-printed from the article by Debora Hill of Lost Myths Inc, LLC with Debora's permission.