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Larry Elsner



2 x 10.5 x 10.5 in.
Gift of Nora Eccles Harrison

Larry Elsner’s work is well illustrated with the multiple pieces covering the breath of his career. Elsner’s early work in the collection shows a variety of his experiments with throwing, sculpting and firing. Platter features three connected hand-built spheres that indicate his future graceful organic forms and the rough, scraped surface texture for which he became known. Male and Female was completed at Utah State University in his second year on the faculty. This work is hand-built and was probably intricately conceived through sketches, as he was an incessant sketcher—continually refining his ideas on form.

Plate represents a series where Elsner incorporates hands of many sizes, both serious and playful, large and small, single and multiple, which adorn vases, large spheres, bowls, plates and platters. This series garnered him national and international attention. Elsner was in full creative stride in the 1980s. “As a sculptor, my concern is for form,” Elsner wrote in 1977, “a maddening search for the unity of space and mass.” Elsner would always choose form over function, regardless of the medium in which he was working: bronze, clay, metal, stone, plaster, or wood.

Elsner was born on a ranch in southern Idaho which inspired his work, as seen in his many animal pieces, particularly horses and cats. He attended the University of Idaho for two years on an athletic scholarship, taking art classes. After spending two years in the US Navy he went on to graduate from Utah State University in 1957, which was immediately followed by a MFA from Columbia University in 1958. He traveled to Japan many times, the first in 1969 with his wife and daughter, and since then the Japanese aesthetic was evident in all of his work. In Japan he was inspired to stone scrape his work after seeing this treatment on anagama-style wood fired pots. He taught a variety of art classes at Utah State University over a 30-year period.

Billie Sessions, PhD.

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