Mary Larsen- Poetic Forms | July 29 - Sept 30

July 29 - September 25, 2023

WAAM is pleased to present the two-person exhibition Mary Larsen: Poetic Forms and Carol Todaro: Object as Subject at Dimensions Variable. This exhibition features a selection of artwork, archives, and ephemera that explore the artistic journeys of two Miami-based artists. Larsen and Todaro excavate and unveil the intricate relationships between text, objects, and images through their multifaceted processes in distinct ways. The exhibition opens on July 29 and runs through September 2023. 

Dreamlike worlds collide in ethereal terrains in Mary Larsen’s paintings and altered books. Her paintings, conceived as  “dream-scapes”, underscore a foundational interplay of text and images. Larsen uses silkscreen, ink, and paint with found and reclaimed materials, remnants, maps, and fragments in multilayered ways. The result is a palimpsest, where the real and the imagined converge in elaborate tapestries that weave together disparate elements and materials. The gesture of mapping, layering,  mark-making, erasing, and obscuring is the scaffolding that holds these worlds together.  It is an experience akin to ‘walking into consciousness’, where memory and perception intersect, and where internal and external words coalesce. The act of repurposing and reclaiming canvas, old paintings, discarded books, pages, letters, and other forms of tangible forms of knowledge symbolizes the act of rewriting or revisiting the topography of memory, where the possibilities of new histories may emerge.

Larsen’s incorporation of books, text, and poetic fragments stems from a deep affinity for poetry and prose. In 2013, while working as an art educator, she began utilizing books in workshops with women and disadvantaged youth as a means of offering the participants a powerful communication tool. The altered book series grew out of these encounters and gradually, the book became a transformative tool and medium for her artistic expression that is now emblematic of her artmaking.  In Larsen’s altered book collection, pages are transformed into visual narratives that upend time and simultaneously reveal and conceal the fragility and resiliency of our constructed worlds. Poetic fragments and musings emerge as if they were always destined to exist on the page. 

During the pandemic, Larsen produced several paintings and books as a response to the profound sense of personal and collective isolation and trauma faced by communities worldwide. The painting Under the Surface most vividly illustrates the palimpsest nature of Larsen’s art practice. At the peak of the pandemic, she took obituary pages from New York Times and delicately worked and layered them onto a reclaimed painting, evoking the effect of a crumbling monument or plaque. Larsen’s work powerfully conjures the seen and the unseen and contemplates the imprints of time, history, and inner emotional worlds.

Miami-based artist and educator, Mary Larsen, was raised in New York City where she developed an early interest in art while attending an art magnet high school. She studied printmaking and filmmaking at Hampshire College and after a successful career as an art director, completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Florida International University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Mary’s work has been exhibited in New York City, San Francisco, San Juan, Miami, and Kyoto. Her work is in corporate and individual collections in New York, Miami, and San Juan. Her altered books are in the special collections at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts, the University of Miami, Florida International University, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. As a teaching artist, she received the Ellies Art Teacher Travel grant in 2019.