12. Mernet Larsen

Mernet Larsen b. 1940, Houghton, Michigan, Skydiver, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 2106. The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art Gift of Barbara '68 and Theodore '68 Alfond Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College 2016.3.1

During the 1960s, painter Mernet Larsen explored wholly abstract compositions and began creating figural works with loose more expressive brushstrokes. Over time she developed a particular and striking form of representation on display here. Larsen’s futuristic figural paintings border on abstraction, employing techniques of hard edge painting in geometric representations of quotidian existence. With unfixed perspectives and vivid color, Larsen’s paintings emphasize the construction and invention of memory and essence, making visible the moving parts of her subjects and the spaces they activate.

Larsen explains in her artist statement that her process is conscious of a coming together of parts, “Components are disassembled, reassembled so that the actions are non-organic collaborations of parts. (I often paint the elements separately on tracing paper, try out different noses, heads, hands---, then paste them on). I want the mechanisms of my paintings to be fully visible…” This formal mechanism is complimented by Larsen’s addition of narrative specifics to her tableaus, such as the title on the cover of a book (War and Peace), or a geometric, sideways glance. In an interview published on The Huffington Post on March 2, 2015, Larsen explained that her process involved allowing her subjects or content to inform the formal qualities of her work, “What you see determines how you see it, that has pretty much governed my whole life.” Larsen is professor emeritus of the University of South Florida, located in Tampa, where she taught from 1967 to 2003.