Kim Larson is a local mosaic artist who stretches this medium to an extent we haven’t yet seen. She often works in three dimensions, crafting whimsical sculptures for the home or garden, and has a new body of work that pushes her two-dimensional pieces into the realm of abstract impressionism.
We’ve seen a couple of her public pieces already (New Art Walk in Jingletown), but today we’re going to see a number of works from her private collection, some even in progress.
I had a chance to talk with Larson about the medium of mosaics, her process, and art in general while touring her home, studio, and garden – all fantastically adorned with mosaics! scroll below photos for interview
Below and above you see some of Larson’s nudes series… these are a relatively new exploration for her, focused on more abstract representations.
Below is the basis of a 3-dimensional sculpture. If you remember paper-machéing a piggy bank from a balloon in grade school (I do!), this process is similar, but instead of dredging newspaper strips through flour & water, the form is constructed from mesh strips and a concrete mixture.
Here we see one of her nearly completed sculptures. Most of the glass pieces have been affixed but the overall piece has not yet been grouted (you can see the gaps between the glass squares). Keep in mind that all these little pieces of glass are cut by hand! Perhaps this why Larson says mosaics are “crazy-making”…
More garden fixtures…
INTERVIEW with KIM LARSON
How did you come to be involved in the Jingletown Arts community? Did you ever live in the neighborhood?
I “discovered” IMA in March 2006, started trying mosaics, took classes and volunteered on several projects. I was also employed there as a production artist from June ’07 – Jan ’08. While I was there I became aware of JABC, saw their printed materials – postcards, posters, etc – and knew I could help! I just love the name “Jingletown” and felt that, as an outsider, I could offer graphic art work and bring more recognition to them.
For a little more info: http://kimlarsonart.blogspot.com/
I see that you’ve worked in many different artistic mediums (paint, drawing, sculpture, etc.) throughout your artistic career. Can you talk about how you came to work with mosaics?
I was laid off in 2005 from my graphic art job. I asked the universe for my next step, specifically something I could become obsessed with. And then I happened upon a business card for Mosaic Studio Supply – the store inside IMA. I was curious as to what a mosaic studio is and what it needed to be supplied with. So I went there. I was taken by the shiny, sparkly, colorful products as well as the art on the walls, the classrooms, etc. So I decided to try mosaics.
And what do you find particularly appealing and/or challenging about working in mosaics, as opposed to other mediums?
Appealing? I find mosaics to be crazy-making! At times I have to admit I walk that fine line between sanity and insanity because each cut, each piece, each color, each placement has to be perfect! Specifically, I like to work with sparkly, mirrored, textured, brightly colored glass. I feel like I am painting with light. The reflective qualities of the glass force the viewer to move around the piece to see it truly take shape and reveal itself. Mosaics using glass is not a static medium. The play of light adds an extra dimension one doesn’t find in many other art forms.
I’ve noticed that some of your work tends to focus on animal forms. You have some recent mosaic sculptures and older folk art pieces that showcase different animals. Can you talk about your inspiration here?
This isn’t a deep answer: I think they are just easy. And they appeal to people. However, mostly I rely on images and visions just popping into my head. One day the image of a frog in a particular position, came into my mind and I started creating small mosaics based on that vision. They were – and are – VERY popular and have sold like hotcakes. [see photo below] It turns out that the spiritual meaning of “frog” is “transition” and I was definitely in transition at that time in my life. That’s why I like to rely on images that pop into my mind. They are authentic to me and will resonate with the viewers.
In general, where do you look for inspiration?
I have synesthesia – my brain is wired in such a way that I see colors when I hear sounds or get a massage or feel physical pain, etc. I also see letters as colors, numbers each have a color…etc. I can “see” music especially – each note and chord is a different color and music is a swirl of shapes and hues in my mind’s eye.
So I am always in touch with the color, music and emotional meaning in the physical world around me. And I can evoke responses in viewers by the colors and shapes I use.
My mind is full of imagery so I don’t look far for inspiration!
You worked on a couple of the pieces on the new-ish Jingletown Peterson Street Art wall – the Virgin of Guadalupe (as a solo installation) and the mosaic tree with friend and fellow artist Saundra Warren. Can you talk about the differences in working as a solo artist vs. as a collaborator with others? Which do you prefer?
I find mosaics to be a very lonely art. One works hunched over the substrate – walking along a precipice of insanity!! – making hundreds if not thousands of decisions a day. Working alone, I can hear my own thoughts and am not distracted. I am not a person who asks others what they think I should do next to a piece of art. I like to keep my own counsel. Then the final product is mine – good, bad or ugly! When I work with others, I happily chat, we make decisions together, I learn from them and it isn’t lonely. However the final product is a collaboration and one must share the accolades.
I like the total control I have over my own fine art pieces.
However I also really like installing mosaic murals – the time when they actually start to go up on a wall involves physical labor and is very exciting. And that is where a finely tuned team is a joy!
When approaching public works of art, is your process any different? What about your objectives?
When I’ve created public art, I call on my past experience as a graphic artist – creating presentations, working with clients to realize their visions, discussing what will and won’t work in specific situations, designing on the computer, etc. However I can’t totally rely on my inner inspiration when working with a committee.
My objective is always to make a great piece of art that people love!!
What do you think the role of public art is in our society?
I think the role is at least twofold – to give artists work and to elevate the human spirit. Whenever I see art in a public space I think: Wow, someone – a politician, most likely – had the guts to push for public art! I am always happily amazed to see the range of public art, the styles, colors and ideas that artists come up with. The work can be simply pretty or awe-inspiring or make the viewer ask “how did they do that?” Public art adds a dimension to our lives that is immeasurable. And art where you least expect it is a beautiful thing!
I am always struck by how many regular people hang out their shingles and open their doors during Open Studios here. It’s like people are showing us their hidden world of hopes and dreams to say “I am an artist too”!
Art in public places inspires people’s inner artist!
I see you’ve had a long career as a graphic artist? Does your commercial work in any way inform your personal? Or vice versa?
I have the ability to communicate visually – I always have, since I was small. Both the commercial and personal art is intertwined, I’m sure. Although the commercial work is always controlled by the client and that can be very wearing! My personal work is all mine – my inspiration, my choices and ultimately my responsibility.
Did you have any formal training as an artist?
No I really haven’t had much formal training. I spent one year in college as an art major but dropped out for many reasons. I decided to pursue my art path on my own terms and have mostly stayed away from classes and teachers. I have had artistic talent and been getting accolades for it since I can remember. Art materials have always been easy for me to learn. But it has been my responsibility to keep up the discipline to take this talent seriously and develop it.
I’m taking my first mosaic class at the Institute of Mosaic Arts this weekend? Any advice for me?
I would say that you should learn the materials inside and out. There are “right and wrong” ways to use materials. Then keep up with your artistic development on your own….there is no “right and wrong” there. Discover your own voice – learn to make the materials speak for you.