Since childhood I’ve harbored a passion, closeted at first, for making art but I didn’t always realize how deep a calling it was. In junior high I came across a photo of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” which awakened me to my keen visual sense. In 1965 I began making sculptures on Cape Cod with leather scraps from the sandal shop where I worked. When I moved west two years later, I visited the Watts towers in Los Angeles and the junk assemblages in the mud flats across the bay from San Francisco and my eyes opened to the art materials that are everywhere which I began turning into whimsical constructions on empty lots and beaches.
In 1970, after four years in Aspen where I had initially gone to attend a writers’ workshop, I settled in rural Southeastern Vermont, opened a retail business, married and raised a family. It was here that my passion evolved from avocation to vocation. Fortunate enough to travel and experience critical times in history in different parts of the world, I have been able to explore and nurture my creative impulses by being an observer, forager and steward of beautiful objects.
I love old ramshackle wooden structures with their lean-tos and additions, especially barns with weathered gray siding and red trim. Rather than re-coloring anything, I prefer to work with the palette I find - so I always have an eye out for broken down farm buildings from which I can scavenge fragments. While living in the west, I fell in love with the raw beauty of the mountains and the desert. I was particularly drawn to unrestored ghost towns and the remnants of the mines they had grown up around where I found rusted metal with a reddish tone not seen in damper climates and deeply grained shards of wood which had hardened with age in the dry air.
Driftwood is one of my favorite collectibles, especially painted pieces which have been tumbled to perfection. A recycler by nature, virtually everything I use in my art has had a previous life – bobbins, chair spindles, tool handles, toys, croquet sets and wooden patterns from steel mills-most of which is brought to me by packrat-types who enjoy seeing what I do with their treasures. Bits and pieces of things that are fun to look at are spread throughout my studio so I can see as many as possible at a glance. I constantly move them around making different combinations on my worktables until I’m satisfied with an assemblage. A visual version of perfect pitch seems to guide me as I tweak a piece to completion.
My fondness for the rustic is reflected in my lifestyle which includes living in an early period style house I designed and built on a piece of property carved out of the woods to accommodate my earth-bound efforts at landscaping, poultry/game bird farming and forest management. As an importer of handcrafts and artifacts, antique Asian furniture and natural-dyed Oriental rugs, my business has meshed nicely with other aspects of my life having furnished me with the resources to constantly rearrange my surroundings to suit my evolving tastes. I wouldn’t be able to stop fiddling with my environment if I wanted to. A meeting of passion and profession have brought me a sense of harmony and fulfillment that was years in the making – a testament to the notion that it is never too late to nurture the creative spirit and drive that is inherent in all of us.
The idea that art arises out of need, lack and deprivation hit home for me the first time I drove through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado. Who needs sculpture when you can look at this, I remember thinking. But as soon as it was out of sight a desire arose in me to fill the void.
Larry Simons lives with his wife and his flocks on 42 acres near Brattleboro, Vermont.