Carol Larson – Sonoma County, California, USA
I design textiles for the wall integrating commercial & vintage fabrics with cloth of my own design. Dye, paint and stitch are my tools.
I apply multiple layers of dye, selective dye removal and screen-printing with original imagery; most of which comes from photos of my travels. Where others see landscape, history or structure, I see pattern, texture and depth. A path of oval rocks from a Japanese garden, a jute window covering, ancient cave dwellings, a kelp forest, even the dripping prep work of house-painting have all become screens through which I have pulled paint and dye. Layers of stitching, and often more paint complete each piece.
My Keeping Up Appearances series tackles some of the thornier social issues of mid-century America, inspired by text from a 1954 book on etiquette and utilizing vintage linens. With each new series I continue to develop my narrative on rites of passage, social and cultural issues.
(Click images to enlarge)SAQA: When did you begin making art with fabric? Do you work in other media as well?
LARSON: I learned to sew as a preteen. With an intuitive color sense and love of texture I have enjoyed a life-time of exploring fiber: wearable art, hand-weaving, spinning/dyeing, knitting and needlepoint. In 2000 I studied surface design and soon traded in my floor loom for a Thermofax machine. I began to market my textile art in 2002.
SAQA: What inspires you?
LARSON: Observations in everyday life inspire both my art and spirit. I have taken thousands of images of cracks in the pavement, rusting & deteriorating surfaces, reflections, pathways, stonework, sunsets; ordinary things that make my heart sing and fuel the muse. For the past decade I have been engrossed in and inspired by story-telling, both my own and that of others. Everyone has a story; by telling and sharing mine I’ve inspired others to do the same which in turn has challenged me to dig deeper.
SAQA: Have any artists or art movements influenced your work?LARSON: Fiber artist Anita Luvera Mayer profoundly influenced my life and subsequently my art. As an aging female, blooming with creativity, she mentored self-acceptance and self-worth at a time when I had little of either. Once I shed my poor body image, what was within began to emerge as elegant expression and placed me on the path I continue to explore today.
My Tall Girl Series, borne of repression, survival and victory was influenced by the life and art of Frida Kahlo. The complex bits of Gustav Klimt, the freeform exuberance of Kandisky and the colorful compositions of Hundertwasser also have influenced my work.
SAQA: What techniques and materials do you use?
LARSON: I dye, paint, screen-print, work with wax both as batik and encaustic, do paper lamination and photo transfer. I am always interested in learning different methods to put story to cloth and to grow my toolbox. I enjoy using vintage linens in my work and feel that no tea towel is too fancy for my dye-pot. I like the idea of bringing new life to an old heirloom.
SAQA: Where do you create?
LARSON: I have a dry studio upstairs and a wet studio downstairs in the home I share with Lloyd, my husband of 45 years.SAQA: How do you reconcile the art-making and business sides of your creative life?
LARSON: Fortunately I had a strong business background before becoming a studio artist so that aspect has come easier to me than some. I am an exhibiting artist & board member of a 40 year cooperative gallery in Sonoma, CA (No. California wine country) which provides fantastic exposure for my work.
I also keep my website updated, blog, and engage in social media (Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) while continuing to seek out exhibition and sales opportunities that support my artistic growth. It is always a fine balance.
SAQA: What are you working on now? What’s next?
LARSON: I am working on a three year collaboration with SAQA member Marion Coleman, where we each are creating 25 large pieces for a series titled Defining Moments. It is a storytelling project which examines the diversity of our experiences of growing up white in an affluent neighborhood vs. black in the segregated south. It is meaty, thought-provoking work which challenges me in recollection, history, technique and design.
I have completed ten pieces, of which Defining Moments #7: Fleeing the City was juried into SAQA’s exhibit Stories of Migration: Contemporary Artists Interpret Diaspora at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC, which opens April 16.