May 5 was a homecoming of sorts for Larry Strickland. The Florala native and 1984 Troy University alumnus was honored at an opening reception for his exhibit “People in Time and Places,” on display in the International Arts Center’s Foyer Gallery.
The exhibit is a collection of watercolor, acrylic and oil paintings, representing the people and places that have played an impactful role during different periods of Strickland’s life and features many of his friends and family members.
Included in the exhibit are a series of street scenes featuring iconic locations in Birmingham and New Orleans.
“After the service, I lived in New Orleans for six years and tried to hone my craft doing street scenes,” Strickland said. “I got into doing the wet street scenes because it always rained in New Orleans. Asphalt is very ugly, so if you wet it, all of sudden you have lights reflecting in the streets. That is one of the reasons I like to go with a rainy scene. It adds a mood also. I consider myself as much a historian as I do an artist. I capture the scenes I see.”
Strickland originally came to TROY in 1968, but shortly after, was drafted during the Vietnam War. Following his service in the U.S. Army, Strickland attended the Ringling School of Art where he was the top graduate in his class. He would later return to TROY to finish the degree he had begun many years before, but it was in 1999 that the full impact on his work began to be felt by the University.
Current Board of Trustee member Earl Johnson commissioned Strickland to create a Trojan for display on campus and the result was a sculpted wooden piece that now sits inside the entrance to Trojan Arena. Little did he know at the time that initial Trojan statue would lead to even bigger things.
As the University was undertaking the renovation of its main quad, Johnson and TROY Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. asked Strickland to create a 10-foot Trojan statue to be placed in the fountain and serve as the quad’s centerpiece.
“Earl Johnson told me that we needed a landmark at TROY,” Dr. Hawkins said. “We began talking about what we could do, and as we moved through the project, we decided that a Trojan in the fountain in the center would be appropriate. We didn’t have to look far to find an artist that was capable of doing that, and, of course, that was Larry.”
Strickland agreed to tackle the project, even though he knew it was a big undertaking.
“I had no clue that I could do a 10-foot Trojan. I knew I had the ability,” he said. “I guess one of the gifts I have is that I’m not afraid to step out there and take on a challenge. One of the symbols in the Trojan statue is the courageous step, stepping out away from your comfort zone into something that you are not sure of but you have the courage to do that. That courageous step changes things. You will see things happen that you would have never seen happen if you had held back.”
It was during that same time that TROY developed a relationship with another artist, Huo Bao Zhu from China. That relationship led to the casting of replicas of Strickland’s Trojan statue that appear at the Dothan, Montgomery and Phenix City campuses, as well as one overlooking the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“Larry took the mold and, along with Professor (Jerry) Johnson from our Art Department and our State Representative at the time, Alan Booth, went to China and worked with Huo Bao Zhu in the foundry,” Dr. Hawkins said. “Larry has had a major impact on this institution. This is the second Strickland exhibit to be displayed in the International Arts Center. We are proud that he has come to share his art with us and we are proud of the example he has set for this institution.”
Strickland said TROY has grown so much through the years since his he was in school.
“It is amazing what TROY has become, and I’m glad to be a part of TROY,” he said.
The exhibit will be on display until Aug. 28. The IAC is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. For additional information about this or other exhibits, call 334-80-6412 or visit the website at www.troy.edu/iac.