Bruce Larsen’s sculptures have sat in the homes of people like Robert Plant and former President Bill Clinton, and now his work can be seen at Troy University.
The renowned Alabama sculptor premiered “Artifacts” at the University’s International Arts Center on Monday, beginning a three-month exhibition of the work, which includes various sculptures made from material Larsen has found over the years.
“People will see a myriad of these — maybe call them metal quilts — pieces of other people’s lives,” said Larsen, who lives in Fairhope. “Since I was a young boy, I’ve been collecting metal and bits that I find. I was going to be an archeologist, but I kind of think of myself as a modern archeologist now. I pick up things before they’re buried and I try to save them by putting them into sculpture.”
Larsen was inducted into the Alabama Center for the Arts Hall of Fame earlier this year after amassing decades of work in “found art” sculpture as well as special effects work in motion pictures such as “The Patriot” and “Oculus.”
“I think the theme (of “Artifacts”) is my common passion since I was a little boy,” he said. “I was born to do this. It took me 20 years to figure it out, but I like finding things. I can be walking through the woods and find there’s no house, but there are azalea bushes blooming, and I know there was a whole family there. They’re gone, but I try to find remnants so they can live on.”
That sense of living history can be seen in the exhibit, which has sculptures consisting of items dating back more than a hundred years in some cases.
“Some of these pieces are from World War II, some survived the Great Depression, there are pieces that people worked very hard to buy and to discard it like trash, it bothers me,” Larsen said. “I want them to have another life. There are shell casings here from World War II and a ship that’s made from the bow of an old ship Nall and I dug up in Mobile Bay. That piece is at least 100, maybe 150 years old.”
His friendship with artist Fred “Nall” Hollis helped facilitate Larsen’s relationship with TROY.
“I had just finished doing the book ‘Alabama Art.’ I went to Fairhope, and inside this architect’s office, he had several Bruce Larsen pieces he owned, and I flipped,” Nall said. “I said, ‘Darn it, why didn’t I put him in the book?’ I met Bruce and we exchanged some work. He is as nice of a person as he is fascinating as an artist.”
IAC Curator Carrie Jaxon finds the center an ideal home for Larsen’s work.
“Bruce Larsen has the same vision (TROY First Lady) Janice Hawkins had when she envisioned this center,” Jaxon said. “He finds discarded objects, appreciates their stories and creates these new stories in the present by bringing them together. It’s appropriate that we are in this building, which was once old and run down but has been turned into this arts center because Mrs. Hawkins saw the potential in it.”
Larsen’s work will be on display through Feb. 1, 2018, and he said the decision to bring his work to TROY was an easy one.
“I’m an Alabama boy and I love this state,” he said. “I love what TROY’s doing here, and it’s a natural fit with Nall, who I’ve been friends with 14 years. I want to help support what they’re doing. It’s a huge honor for me.”