Drawing Diaries of Larry E. Elsner
Excerpted from the Introduction to the exhibition catalog True to Form:
Journal Drawings, Writing and Related Sculpture by Larry E. Elsner
Larry E. Elsner was a quiet, thoughtful person whose natural inclination was toward modesty rather than self-promotion, regardless of his undeniable talent or the stature of his achievements. As an artist, he was primarily concerned with the process of making sculptural forms -- forms that would speak softly and with eloquence to anyone who would like to listen. He was also a gifted teacher who shared his knowledge of the visual arts, and sculpture, in particular, through courses he taught at Utah State University from 1960 until his death in 1990. During his tenure as a professor in the Art Department, Larry taught anatomy, drawing, ceramics, metalsmithing, jewelry casting and sculpture in all media.
Larry was born in 1930 in the southern Idaho community of Gooding and was raised in the surroundings of his family's ranch. The environment of Larry's childhood home deeply impressed itself upon his visual memory. Its expansive night sky; its seasons, rocks, and wind; its seed and animals; the patterns and textures of its earth; and its quietness helped define the perimeter of Larry's youthful world. Years later, the essence of this place would help shape Larry's artistic universe as its characteristics emerged with infinite variety and interpretation in his works.
Familiar examples of Larry's artworks are the elegantly-shaped sculpture and vessel forms he crafted in clay, metal, and wood. To enrich these forms, Larry worked in other media to generate new ideas or fresh approaches to his materials. Drawing was particularly important because the process functioned as an independent means of expression and a discipline through which Larry invented, explored and clarified ideas about form. Although Larry produced hundreds of exquisitely-drawn studies during the course of his career, this aspect of his work is relatively unknown. True to Form: Journal Drawings, Writing and Related Sculpture by Larry E. Elsner is organized as an introduction to the artist's writing and studies in drawing. The exhibition provides an overview of drawing themes and their relationships to Larry's sculpture and vessel forms.
The most comprehensive collection of Larry's work as a draftsman in contained in a series of seventy journals the artist developed between 1960 and 1990. These journals, which are the central focus of True to Form, also contain bibliographic references, quotations, technical notes and Larry's written thoughts about his own artwork and the significant events of his life. Although Larry most certainly drew while pursuing degrees in art at Utah State University and Columbia University in New York, the whereabouts of drawings from the early period are unknown...
The size and portability of Larry's journals made them convenient for use in almost any situation. There is a marked difference, however, between entries Larry made while close to home and those he made during extended periods of travel. For example, the journal he kept while traveling in Japan in 1987 has an intermingling of manuscript and drawing throughout; the writing is of equal importance to the drawing and in many cases, dominates the pages. Larry recorded his travel routes, conversations, and impressions of the country. He wrote especially detailed accounts of cuisine and matters pertaining to his physical state, as well as that of his daughter, Tami, and his wife, Yoko, with whom he had traveled, Similar journals document Larry's travel to Europe, his artist's residency at Ucross, Wyoming, and some of his annual sojourns in New York.
Larry developed the majority of his journals while working in Logan, Utah. In contrast to his travel journals, these focus on the process of creating three-dimensional forms. Drawing done from memory, imagination and directly from nature, are abundant. Manuscripts entries are brief, touching on aesthetics, philosophy of art, sources of inspirations, and technical issues. Poetry and quotes from other artists also appear. The contents of these journals reflect the overarching theme of Larry's work: the human form; animals, especially cats and horses; the landscape; and the forces and cycles of nature. Whether the balance of writing-to-drawing in Larry E. Elsner's journals tips toward the drawn image or the written word, each journal is like a diary -- an intimate record of the most significant experiences, concerns and ideas of the artist's life.
Rose M. Milovich
Copyright Notice: Yoko Elsner, all rights reserved