1 OCTOBER 2008. The Board of Directors of ARTsmart is pleased to announce that Fran Larsen has been selected as Honorary Artist for the 12th Annual ARTfeast Santa Fe. The designation recognizes artists of standing in the community whose artwork and activities encourage others to explore their creativity.
Board member Latricia Gonzales-McKosky, president of the Santa Fe Gallery Association, announced the selection, noting that Larsen has been inspired by northern New Mexico for more than three decades. “As one of the country’s premier colorists working in watermedia, Fran has participated in countless regional and national exhibitions, where she has won significant awards. She’s juried more than forty exhibitions and put on workshops for societies and colleges across the United States. This year, she was designated a Legend of Fine Art by Southwest Art.”
About the artist. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1937, Larsen grew up in the resort community of South Haven, Michigan, on the south end of Lake Michigan. As a child she learned about the “construction” of the land from an uncle who was a glacial geologist. She also drew at an early age, mentored in part by her grandmother who praised and posted her drawings.
Graduating magna cum laude with her BA from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Larsen went on to study art at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and at Hope College, Holland, Michigan. A student of ancient Meso-American cultures, she became a confessed “ruins crawler” during the 1970s. At the height of a successful art career in Michigan, in 1980, Larsen followed the sun to Santa Fe with her then-husband abstractionist Hal Larsen. Their son Ted Larsen has also become a painter and sculptor.
Dialogues of discovery. Larsen says that her paintings are metaphors of her reaction to New Mexico’s geological grandeur and vibrant cultures. “I am inspired by the way the environment makes me feel,” she says. “So, while I reference actual buildings and landscapes, my paintings are what I call âself talk.’ They are intensely personal dialogues between my perceptions and conception, between colors I see and colors that express my bliss.”
Although she began her career as a watercolorist, six years ago Larsen transitioned into acrylics, pursuing a lifelong love affair with pushing her medium do new things and to find new paths. “Paintings are not windows onto the world, they are reflections of who you are,” she explains. “That’s why I started carving and painting my frames more than twenty years agoâthe frame is an extension of my cockeyed optimism in this magical place.” Inspired by travels to Mexico and by the carved and painted vigas she saw in Santa Fe’s St. Francis Auditorium, Larsen designs and paints each frame to complement the painting. “The frame also reasserts that the painting is an object as opposed to a representation,” she says. Las Cruces de Chimayo by Fran Larsen
ARTsmart projects. Larsen will be working with students at Capital High School and Santa Fe High School. “My goal is for each child to get in touch with his or her passion, prompted by the theme of what it means to live in Santa Fe. Some students will choose bright, glorious colors; others may select darker ones. There are no right or wrong answers, no grades, just a search for authentic feelings.”
ARTsmart honors Fran Larsen during the sumptuous Gourmet Dinner & Auction on Saturday, 21 February 2009, at which time one of her paintings and the student artworks will be auctioned. The proceeds benefit ARTsmart projects and programs.