Unless you’ve been living under a coconut shell, chances are you would have at some time come across the psychedelic work of Larry Carlson. Yes…THAT artist who makes your brain go all trippy. Oh, and have you heard his music? Surreal is an understatement. Collages done the traditional, good old-fashioned way? Check! Digital photographic art? Check! Larry is a veritable powerhouse of creativity, as you will find out.
Here’s what Larry says about his art on his own site:
G4Tech TV called him “The Salvador Dali of the Next Century”, and High Times magazine labeled him an “Artistic Mastermind”. Larry Carlson is a legendary visionary artist who utilizes a vast range of mediums to create mind boggling art that will make you think twice about how you see the world. He is a modern day renaissance man with revolutionary work that pushes the possibilities for consciousness exploration within contemporary art. Few artists can rival him in terms of innovation, vision, talent, and high-yield experimentation.
His work spans a variety of forms including photography, film making, web-art, collage painting, digital art, animation, video-art, text-art, and sound design. What ever art form he’s working in Carlson’s greatest strength is in artfully depicting the mystical dimensions of consciousness, coaxing us into sweet spiritualized epiphanies one moment then plunging us into completely bizarre surreal frenzies the next. His artwork fuses together aspects of mysticism, surrealism, psychedelia and the technological resulting in sublime juxtapositions that can totally bend one’s perception.
A pioneer in experimental multimedia web-art, he first started exhibiting his artwork online in 1997. In 2000 Carlson published the legendary art web sites Virtual OM and LarryCarlson.com which featured his original full screen psychotropic entertainment.
Larry Carlson has been featured in magazines like Vice, Juxtapoz, High Times, Cracked, NY Arts, Beautiful/Decay, and US weekly. International newspapers like Montreal’s Mirror, Istanbul’s Vatan News, and London’s Guardian, have done features on his unique awe-inspiring art.
He has exhibited his collage artwork, digital photo artwork, and video art in the U.S., Japan, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, France, the U.K., India, and Germany. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City exhibited some of his handmade collage art books in the show Book/Shelf. His movies have been screened at The Paço das Artes Museum in San Palo, Brazil, the Brattle Theater in Boston, Alex Grey’s COSM gallery in New York City, A.T.A. in San Francisco, and other galleries and theaters around the world.
Larry Carlson creates his own original music and soundtracks and so far has released eight albums. In 2008, Portland, Oregon’s KBOO 90.7 fm hosted two Larry Carlson music specials featuring his surreal soundtracks.
Larry Carlson graduated from Cooper Union School of Art in New York City, where he studied painting and video-art. He currently lives and works in his studio in the green mountains of Vermont.
It’s worth checking out Larry’s site, which is very comprehensive and contains a plethora of examples of his work, all neatly categorised. Here are just a few of my favourite ones:
What interests me most about Any Artist’s work is their process, techniques and workflow, and also what goes on inside their heads. Luckily for us all, Larry is very forthcoming in this regard, and his site even has a Frequently Asked Questions section, which I quote verbatim here for your convenience:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(taken verbatim from http://www.larrycarlson.com)
What is your process for making the images?
Sometimes I see a clear vision in my mind’s eye of the image I want to make and then I set out and take the photos and do the computer effects to make it happen. Most of the time I just experiment and have fun with combinations of filters, images, and 3-D rendering. I do a lot of the work with the image editing program Photoshop. I also use 3-D rendering programs to make computer generated objects and settings to use in my work.
I always have a lot of unfinished works on my hard drive that I work on for a while and then put away until the inspiration hits me to work on it again. So most of my finished pieces are the result of months of on and off work. I follow my own vision and try to make something new everyday. Even if I dont feel like working, I still work on my art daily, because it helps me stay focused and continue to make new fresh work.
I am mostly left-handed and use an electronic pen on a tablet to actually draw and paint on my digital images. Sometimes I also use a mouse with my right hand at the same time.
As well as using computers to make images I also make old fashion cut and paste collages. This really influences the style of my digital work, as it helps me use Photoshop in a “real hands on” way, and not be dependent on digital effects only. I strive to have my work describe life as positive, elusive, and rich with wonder and possibility.
What inspires your work?
I let intuition and improvisation be the main guiding forces in the creation of my art. Many of the ideas for my art come to me in dreams and visions, so i spend a lot of time cultivating a mystical state of mind. I often go out in nature, hiking, camping and taking photos, being a part of the mother nature system has a deep influence on my work.
Do you take your own photos?
Yes. I take photos with a digital camera that I use in my work. Sometimes I do shoots in a studio, other times I take shots outdoors. I retouch, fix up, composite, and alter the photos in Photoshop. In the city or up in the mountains, its always an adventure getting new shots to use in my work.
How do you create your collage artwork?
With glue and scissors, I take a tiny little bit of something from a piece and put it together with a lot of other pieces and make a distinct whole. The result is a juxtaposition of the familiar and the fantastical. I hunt for old books and magazines for material to use and I print out images from the computer. I cut and splice these samples into new formations that reconstruct culturally constructed meaning of the original samples, opening up the images to a multiplicity of interpretations. I am inspired by the infinite permutations of visual images which parallel the infinite nature of the imagination.
How do you make the soundtracks?
Like my visual artwork it’s a collage process. I make my soundtracks by mixing and processing sound samples on the computer. I use several different sound programs to put the tracks together. I collage samples from everywhere and anywhere, the TV, the web, radio, phone messages, you-tube videos, turntables and musical instruments. Sometimes I use programs to generate sounds to mix in the work. I also play around with the KORG MS2000, a really cool Pink Floydish sounding synthesizer.I even like to mix in sounds I get from an ol’ school ATARI 2600 console. All my soundtracks are available as a free mp3 downloads. And I have a SoundCloud music page and an iLike music fan page.
Where do you exhibit your work?
I show different forms of art, like interactive web sites art, video installations, large high quality prints of digital art, collage paintings and handmade collage books. Recently my movies were presented at Alex Grey’s COSM gallery, and were publicly displayed on a pair of outdoor video screens at Harvard. Last year, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City showed some collage art books I collaborated on in the show Book/Shelf. In 2002, The Paço das Artes Museum in San Palo Brazil exhibited a version of my web site LARRYCARLSON.COM projected on a wall in a gallery where visitors could interact with it. In Stockholm, Sweden, Galleri Loyal has exhibited my collage paintings. My movies have been screened in festivals around the world in places like New York City, Austin,Texas, France, Canada and Germany. And I have had many exhibitions of my digital images at festivals and shows around the world.
How do you do your live VJ shows?
Basically I mix a collage of videos and animations in much the same way that DJs mix records. The techniques and equipment are different then a DJ, but the basic principles are the same (eg selecting, cross fading, scratching, cutting, sampling to the rhythm). I burn my own custom made DVDs and much of my VJing now is me mixing content on several DVD players through a video mixer device to the rhythm of the music. As well as the DVD players I also use a VJ software program to mix and manipulate digital video clips. In the past I have played live on tour with musical groups like The Kottonmouth Kings, and at major electronic music events.
How and when did you get into computers?
My early experiences with computers begin when I was a kid, messing with the old Commodore 64 home computer. Later on in college I did a big experimental video collage piece with the Amiga video editing system as well as experiments with Adobe Premiere. I spent a lot of time creating digital images with Photoshop. During this time i started making music with the computer and more then any thing I wanted people too see this cool stuff, so publishing on the net became a must. I quickly learned how to make web pages and my early web sites were online galleries of my digital images. So by the time Flash came out , I was ready to really rock the system! After having spent years of exploring so many different fields of computer art, now its all kind of melting together into one “multimedia” experience.
Did you go to school to learn how to do this?
I graduated from Cooper Union School of Art in New York City, where I studied painting and video-art. A lot of the artwork I do now, I learned on my own. I love learning new programs and experimenting with them to make something new.
How can people stay updated on what your doing?
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