Spotlight Artist Interview
SPA: Tell us about your journey as an artist. How did you get started?
Larry: I probably started at age 4 or 5 with crayons. I was an art major in college and had private lessons in high school. I was in my 20’s when I started exhibiting in galleries. I came into my own in my late 30’s when I started doing collage and using color transparencies – cutting them up and attaching them together with tacks and wire. It’s hard to believe that was 27 - 28 years ago!
SPA: Could you discuss your involvement in the art scene over the years?
Larry: I showed my work at Doll-Anstadt Gallery in Burlington. I was living in Boston at the time and had some group shows at art centers but Doll-Anstadt was really my first and probably best ever “serious” gallery. It was through my partner’s sister that I was connected with the owner of the gallery (she was his hair dresser). I showed at Doll-Anstadt over the course of about 10 years and had some great shows before they eventually closed.
I was also part of The Artist Group of Charlestown when I was still living in Massachusetts. We shared a large studio space and had group shows. I’m no longer involved, but the group still exists in Boston.
SPA: How did you find your medium? What was your inspiration for working with transparencies and cold wax?
Larry: There used to be an event in Boston called “Paper Prayers” -- it was an art exhibit fundraiser. You would create these little pieces of art to benefit the AIDS Action committee. The galleries would devote one wall for these artworks. I saw a piece someone had done using color transparency film. The artists were anonymous so you had no idea who created what, but I bought the transparency piece and still have it somewhere. That’s when I first got the idea to start using transparencies to make collages. My work then evolved and I started combining transparencies with painting, metal, mica, and tacks. In my mind, it was like I was creating little shrines or reliquaries.
I did encaustic before I did cold wax painting. I combined it with my collage. But you need such a setup for hot wax, plus good ventilation. I eventually stumbled upon the process of cold wax painting. I started out tentatively. I used cold wax because I didn’t want a shiny surface on my oil paintings. Cold wax comes in a can. You mix in a little bit of it with your oils and it kind of brings down the shine on your finish. Another reason to use cold wax was to thicken my paint up and create textures. I mix one-part wax with two or three parts oil paint. I typically do not use a brush at all – I like spatulas, combs, palette knives, fingers. I hate to say it, but I waste a lot of paint. I put a lot of paint down to build up the surface of my panel and then scrape things off.
SPA: What inspires you?
Larry: I’m inspired by other artists (Caravaggio, Bacon, and Cornell) but I’m also very fascinated by ancient cave paintings because they were very spiritual, emotional things. Within the last year I have realized my whole attitude toward art is spiritual. It can be like meditation – those cave paintings are so visceral and emotional and distilled down. That’s what I strive for. I believe in the spiritual aspect of art.
SPA: How do you deal with creative blocks?
Larry: I don’t know how you overcome them other than just keep going. Keep moving forward. Look deep inside yourself and have a lot of self-compassion. Don’t beat yourself up if you are feeling a creative block.
SPA: What is the role of the artist?
Larry: I think artists are kind of like shamans or seers.
SPA: What is most challenging about being an artist? Most rewarding?
Larry: The most challenging thing is that society in general doesn’t always believe you are doing something serious. Your art is rarely going to pay for itself – but it’s not about that. The most rewarding thing is to find yourself and look inside yourself. My art is really all about mindfulness and spirituality. We don’t make art for other people, we’re doing it for ourselves -- but it’s not a selfish thing.
SPA: Any advice for young artists?
Larry: Don’t be afraid to take risks. You obviously have to support yourself but there are benefits to taking risks. If you really want to go to art school – go to art school. You will figure out a way, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. You just can’t be afraid. I wish I didn’t wait until I retired to do art full time.
To view more of Larry's work, visit: www.LarryBowling.com