Bruce Larsen, Sculptor – “Repo-Renaissance Master” – 2009 Sport Artist of the Year
“Each object has an energy. These objects often represent parts of people’s lives. A plow blade may not be just a piece of metal to be casually discarded. It likely may be the only remnant of some poor farmer’s life toil. These objects talk to me. They tell me how I may best honor the lives of the people they have touched.” ~ Bruce Larsen
Repo-Renaissance art fuses respect for the old with humor and enthusiasm for the new. Referring to the rebirth, or renaissance, after the Dark Ages of the arts and sciences during the 14th to 17th centuries, it combines the highly developed technical skills of Classical artists in portraying the grace and power of natural bodies with contemporary social attitudes and ecological awareness.
Repo-Renaissance art is an evolving grandchild of the Found Art movement of revolutionary 20th century French Futurist-Cubist, Marcel Duchamp, and his successors like Arman, Yves Klein, and Christo. Repo-Renaissance works use civilization’s discarded objects to create thought-provoking collages. Rather than projecting a negative, hopeless feeling about civilization’s immense wastefulness, Repo-Renaissance artworks broadcast hope for civilization. The best of these works communicate by example that our trash can be turned into something beautiful.
In the literal sense, a seashell displayed on Lucite, a tree branch mounted on a stand, and even Pet Rocks are examples of Found Art, that is, natural objects showcased as works of art. In the literal definition, examples in a companion style, Readymade Art, are existing manmade objects such as bicycle wheels and Campbell soup cans signed and displayed unaltered. Works of Repo-Renaissance Art start with found materials but alter them according to the artist’s vision to create new representational sculptures employing the skills and demanding aesthetic of expert Classically-trained artisans. Larsen’s unique and monumental creations raise his works far beyond the limits of simple recycled assemblages into the stratospheric realm of contemporary masterpieces.
In one respect, all art is a wake-up call to look at the life around us with fresh, inquiring eyes and learn from the experience. Two basic thoughts often emerge from looking at Larsen’s artworks. Concretely, it’s possible to turn waste into wonderful. More conceptually, the essence of life is not the brittle, unwieldy parts, but the sum of the will and energy that morph it into something beautiful and inspiring. Larsen has built his life around his passion for his art, making Classical sculpture from contemporary salvaged materials. The process has enriched him as well as contemporary art.
“I was shy and wasn’t sure how to fit in as a child. I’ve built myself along with my sculptures.” ~ Bruce Larsen
A good number of Larsen sculptures are commissioned for use in public parks and playgrounds. Delano Park in Decatur, Alabama is the home of a giant dragonfly by Larsen. The body of the dragonfly is constructed from an outboard boat motor which is fitting because dragonflies love water. They spend the first part of their lives as nymph larvae in water and then emerge and sprout wings to fly away, but never too far from a stream or a lake. They are excellent symbols of the interrelation of land and water and the importance of saving wetlands.
Larsen’s dragonfly is a bit bigger and heavier than the tiny shiny insects. Sixteen feet tall the sculpture has electric yellow eyes that light up. Made mostly of steel parts of a World War II dummy artillery shell, heat lamp reflectors, and street light sections, with the interior of its supporting reed strengthened by a truck axle submerged in concrete, the complete artwork is bolted to a sunken concrete base.
“It’s definitely safe enough for children to play with. I really think I could hang my jeep from it.” ~ Bruce Larsen
Some of Larsen’s most famous public sculptures are displayed along the United States Sports Academy’s Walk of Fame, a path made of bricks inscribed with names of historic sports figures. Even from the main Highway 98 leading through Daphne and into Fairhope, travelers can see Larsen’s gigantic recycled machine parts representation of Olympic champion, Borzov the Sprinter. From the other side of the campus, visitors can view the massive Iron Bowl Monument down the path from the delicate sculpture of Olympic gymnast, Nastia Liukin.
“Bruce Larsen is The Ultimate Recycler.” ~ Alabama Congressman Joe Bonner
Larsen’s is the eye of the future: global, ecological, bionic, and focused on non-verbal messages relayed through archetypal images. These qualities characterize all lasting art from exquisite prehistoric cave paintings through energetic contemporary multi-media. They point us to meditate on eternal cultural issues.
“My three children are among my greatest joys in life. I can see that they have evolved further than me. They have fewer limits. That is the way it should be.” ~ Bruce Larsen
Larsen’s art turns the bones of our industrial dinosaurs into the beginnings of ecological innovation by recycling trash and by inspiring viewers to invent their own ways of making healing changes. If Larsen can assemble rusted machine parts into a speeding champion runner and bend stiff iron rods into a graceful young gymnast, then it’s possible that we can redeem the deadly waste and destruction of our industrial-technological world. This message is not only an aspect of the contemporary green movement. It is a goal that places Larsen’s art in good company with the timeless great works of all ages that urge viewers not only to renew our visions but also to revise our actions, to experience a renaissance. Larsen’s work goes far beyond any time-limited trend or commercial fad. Larsen’s green sculptures of our times are fine art for all time.