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Monday, May 11, 2009

Folliard, Folk Art and Food

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The opportunity to represent an artist for more than 20 years excites Tory Folliard of the Tory Folliard Gallery. This month she exhibits the work of Edward Larson, whom her gallery first featured in 1988. Larson, recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship grant in 1981, originally was introduced to Wisconsin via his Door County summer studio. Although he currently resides in Santa Fe, N.M., Larson will be returning to the Midwest for the Folliard show "Ed is Good: New Sculptures and Quilts," running May 15 to June 13.

Over the years Larson forged an idiosyncratic style, using reclaimed orange crates, recyclables and found objects in his artwork long before these techniques became fashionable. Although inspired by American Folk Art and incorporating the whirligigs, toy-like forms and fiber art inherent to the genre, Larson reaches beyond this traditional framework. His oversized, suspended fish assembled with sharp teeth and movable jaws resemble vintage lures. Animal figures carry clever witticisms culled from popular culture. Even his quilts, which he designs but sends to expert seamstresses for completion, revolve around a variety of themes depicting sports and film stars, historical events and political icons, all stitched together with wry social commentary. The work displays Larson's sense of humor, applied with a sardonic touch that juxtaposes his playfulness against more serious, contemplative subject matter.

Larson illustrates the sheer joy of construction in his sculptures, carving wood into primitive figures or animals and using colorful paint to enhance the artwork with a childlike quality. These characteristics are present in Clown Fish, 72 inches long, and his painted woodwind toy, The Jury Is In, featuring 12 seated men on a tiered bench. Yet several new works explore abstraction, using his familiar reclaimed objects to revisit human forms.

Tory Folliard Gallery's upcoming show presents approximately a dozen of Larson's sculptures and quilts. No formal reception is scheduled, but you can drop by the gallery at leisure to enjoy these intriguing works.

Also opening this week is an exhibit at Carroll University titled "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats," a fascinating traveling photo exhibition comparing the food-related customs of 12 countries. Documented by photojournalist Peter Menzel and writer Faith D'Aluisio, the exhibition contrasts images of America's drive-through eating habits with Mali's waterside markets and Cuba's food-rationing cards, among others. These intriguing photos display discrepancies in the ways we satisfy hunger. The exhibition runs May 15 through Aug. 16 at Carroll University's Humphrey Memorial Chapel and Art Center.

2009-05-11