DAVID LARSON

September 29, 1931- August 25, 2007

David circa 2001

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I want all my work to reflect the density of our experience, so every character is part of us at one time or another.

The asylum is where we drop our guard - where we are placed sometimes reluctantly, sometimes with relief, where normality is a mask and we can accept a form that belies 'normal' proportions and relations.

However, embracing normality is as absurd as embracing absurdity - and what seems to be teeming with life can be allusive and point to our ultimate dilemma - our aloneness.

My reality is an infinitely meaningful absence of meaning. I retreat from all points of view except this.

Hence I can only paint what I mean by refusing to mean what I paint.

- From 2001 Artist Statement.

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"I think all the great works do not deal with morality, they simply are, and they don't take stands, they don't make moral issues out of things. They basically articulate a mystery, which is a contradiction in terms I realize, but that's what art I think does, articulates the mystery."

- From 1994 interview.

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David Henning Larson was born in Flushing, New York on September 29, 1931, the second child of Frank and Eleanora Larson. David was brought up in a modest home on Oak Avenue and lived there through his school years.

Both Frank and Eleonora were children of Swedish immigrants who came to America in the 1890's. Frank's father Johan Oscar Larson worked as a foreman at Hecla Ironworks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Eleonora's father Johan Frieberg also worked at the same company as a pattermaker. Hecla Ironworks was well known at the turn of the last century for producing decorative ironwork. They produced eleborate iron facades and railings for city homes and turn-of-the century landmark city buildings like the New York Life Building, Grand Central Terminal and the original IRT subway entrances.

David circa 1934.

David's father Frank, born in 1896, served in the U.S. army during WW1. He was assigned to an artillery unit in France where he sustained a mustard gas attack in 1918 that damaged his lungs. Discharged when the war ended, he was officially listed as a disabled veteran.

After the war Frank got a job working for the Empire Trust Company, a bank in midtown Manhattan. He worked at the same firm until his early retirment in in 1960 due to his lung injuries.

To relieve the boredom of his 9 to 5 job, Frank took up various artistic pursuits, including wood carving, playing the violin and amateur photography.

Eleanora was a homemaker and a very good pianist in the popular music tradition. Together with Frank, the two often played music together, including forming a group that for many years performed square dance music for troops stationed in Fort Totten in Whitestone, Queens.

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Fank and Eleanora at home circa 1952
 

Growing up in Flushing, David lived a fairly normal life and enjoyed the kinds of things most boys his age did, playing baseball in nearby Kissena Park with his neighborhood friends, riding his bicycle and playing with his dog. David's earlylife was without any dramatic or traumatic events. His father kept his job through the depression so his family never went wanting for food or shelter.

David and his brother Franklin, six years older, both started piano lessons at an early age. For David music was his first artistic love. His teacher, Mr. Jehu Hanson, a pianist and organist of considerable talent - Julliard trained - saw considerable promise in David, and nutured his love of classical music.

David circa 1940

For David, the dicipline required to play the piano and the realization that playing the great works of classical music offered were instrumental in his development as an artist. Music, David would say, taught him early on that, "Do something fine, and it's its own reward." David said it was Mr. Hanson who, perhaps unknowingly at the time, triggered his interest in the visual arts.

Sometime when David was still very young, Mr. Hanson bought him a big, encyclopedic book of art history. David described how his teacher would open it to a painting and ask David to study the work and they would talk about how the artist used technique and composition to help tell his story and achieve his goal. Mr. Hanson would tell David to apply this same process to analyze a piece of music. David would say that his study of music exposed him not only to the "magic" that great art provided, but also layed the foundation of his awareness of the importance of form and composition in art.

 

 

 

David circa 1942

 

 
Mr. Hanson sometime in the 1940's David during high school years, circa 1947
 

After 12 Years of classical piano training, David became a very good pianist. He was considered the official pianist at Flushing High School.

But despite the rewards playing the piano offered, David's attention was increasingly being pulled towards the visual arts. Upon graduation from high school, David enrolled in Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to study commercial art. He spent a little over a year there before enlisting in the Air Force in 1951. The Korean War was going on and he enlisted so he would have some control over his military service.

David spent his four years of service based mostly in England, it was the time of the Berlin Air Lift and base he was stationed at was involved in this operation. Most significantly for David, his time in England introduced him to Carole Ann Hill, who he would go on to marry and live together for over 50 years.

David circa 1951
 
David during his Air Force service circa 1952 David and Carole on her arrival to New York in 1955

After completing his service duty in 1955, David returned to New York and Pratt Institute. Carole also came over in 1955 and the two got married in 1956. They settled in Brooklyn near the school where David completed his studies, graduating with a BFA in 1958.

While at Pratt David had the chance to study with some of the prominent artists of the day, including James Brooks and Jack Tworkov. Abstract Expressionism was the prevailing style at that time, and although David was never enamoured with it, he did produce a few works in that style. He also began to devote a lot of time to sculpture.

Later David would speak hightly of his time at college, saying "Pratt was very good for me, good dicipliness." Aside from design and life drawing lessions, David also learned a lot about lettering and advertising design, skills that would prove important in the next phase of his life.

 

 

David painting on Jones Beach in 1957

    More Biography information to follow......
 

 

Resume

Pratt Institute 1949 - 1958, graduated with a B.F.A.

U.S. Air Force 1951 - 1955.

Art Director, Doyle Dane Bernbach, N.Y. 1958-1971.

Creative Director, Doyle Dane Bernbach, London. 1964-1966.

Studied with James Brooks and Jack Tworkov at Pratt Institute in the 1950's, and worked with the sculptor Reuben Nakian in the 1960's.

Moved to Penobscot, Maine in 1971.

Works shown in the Farnsworth Museum, the Portland Museum of Art and numerous other galleries.

Opened Larson Fine Art in 1984, showing Larson work exclusively. Renamed gallery 'Larson Studio and Gallery' in 2002.