By Chelsea Royer
Books are often a means to an end – a way to learn, to escape. Carrie Larson, a local Grays Harbor artist, places so much more value on the tangibility of books, particularly artist’s books. An artist book is unique in that it doesn’t contain the art, it is the art. These are the pieces Carrie delights in creating.
A foreshadowing of Carrie’s journey began in third grade when her teacher had the class put together their own books. Today, Carrie has been actively pursuing her art niche for the last ten years and works out of her home studio. Her artist books and other concepts have taken her into a variety of competitions and exhibitions, such as the Museum of Northwest Art Accreted Terrane Exhibit.
What goes into creating an artist book, you may ask? For Carrie, there is a strong focus on the type of paper used to make the book. Consideration is given to the weight of the page, the texture and grain of the paper, as well as the color. Sometimes Carrie will add text to the pages, other times the unique combination of the paper products tell the story. Even the binding is given special attention as everything comes together to elicit feeling from the viewer.
Everything about the piece relates to the idea behind the book itself. For instance, Carrie’s collection to be placed in an upcoming art show at the Grays Harbor College (GHC) is a piece entitled, “Grief in Five Volumes.” These books represent the five stages of grief, some in accordion-bound presentations. In one volume, Carrie has created a book with a very clenched feel to it to represent anger. Black paper with a coating of white pencil represents denial. These books will be displayed in the Spellman Library at GHC for one month.
Carrie intends for each art piece to elicit different emotions and ideas for each viewer. “I usually go back to the concept of a sense of place,” explains Carrie.” It can be an emotional place as opposed to a physical landscape.
“One of the other important elements is a connection,” Carrie continues. “With artist books, that tactile quality and ability to interact with the viewer a little more intimately is something that’s important to me. I like to move people. One of the cool things about art is that as an artist, you’re going to put something out there but anybody viewing is going to bring their own history and their own experiences to that piece. So the more open-ended you leave it (the art), the richer that piece becomes as people can draw their own conclusions or ideas from it.”
Though Carrie has been a dedicated artist over the last decade, the last three years have been particularly influential. She had the opportunity to take a six-week residency at the Sitka Art Center where single-minded focus on her art was expected and encouraged. Carrie explains that this opportunity built her confidence. Having that dedicated season was empowering and the concepts and ideas she gleaned during that time still impact her work today.
When asked what her favorite creation was, Carrie laughed and answered, “Whatever my current work is.” Each opportunity to create brings enthusiasm and discovery.
Carrie explains that inspiration is a discipline. Not every day is filled with instant ideas. Sometimes inspiration forms over large blocks of time in the studio, thinking and playing with text or shapes.
Carrie adds, “Something that comes out in my art a lot is that there is a desire to connect with people, but also this privacy. So the work kind of unfolds…you give a little and maybe layer it up so some things are hidden.” Perhaps this theme of unfolding could also describe Carrie’s artistic career. The many layers of Carrie’s art are still revealing themselves with every piece and display – little glimpses into the heart of her inspiration.
Carrie’s advice to budding artists is to “stick with it.” She recommends getting well-grounded in the basics of art concepts, such as color theory, and then finding your own voice. If at all possible, take formal classes and get an introduction to visual language. Though there are many artists competing for so few places in competitions, opportunity exists if you are willing to stick with it and try again.