Artist in residence Lori Larusso helps students explore the possibilities of their discipline
Published April 16, 2012
Lori Larusso unenthusiastically chose art as her major after her parents strongly encouraged her to go to college.
But everything changed once she delved into college-level art classes. “I was in an environment where art was taken seriously,” said Larusso, a painter from Lexington, Ky., and the 2012 James Rosenquist Artist in Residence for the NDSU Visual Arts Program.
Larusso excelled in her studies at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning and went on to earn a master of fine arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art’s graduate interdisciplinary program, the Mount Royal School of Art.
She is now a professional artist who is spending spring semester painting in a studio at Renaissance Hall, teaching and mentoring painting students, giving lectures and showing her work in local venues. “This is a unique opportunity to be submerged in a community where people are interested in looking at and talking about art,” said Larusso, the sixth artist and first painter to be selected for the Rosenquist residency.
Larusso’s early work was heavily influenced by pop artist and Grand Forks native James Rosenquist, for whom NDSU’s visual art residency is named. “It’s an honor to be chosen for a residency in Rosenquist’s name,” she said.
Many of Larusso’s paintings are scenes from interiors of suburban homes that raise questions about who lives there and what their story is. Even though the interiors look familiar to many people, “you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s home,” she said.
Larusso often focuses on popular gathering places in the home, such as kitchens, as well as the private places, such as bathrooms. And you won’t find a lot of square canvases in her studio. In a bathroom painting, for example, double sinks and walls are painted on the canvas, but the mirror, bathtub and toilet are cut out and represented by their absence.
“I use representations of generic, stereotypical middle America to remind the viewer of the culture we maintain on a daily basis,” Larusso said. “I use this to explore the contradictions that exist in society’s system of beliefs by pointing to the complexity of individual situations. I believe ideals are reflections of the way one wishes things were rather than the way they are actually experienced.”
In the intermediate and advanced painting class she is teaching, Larusso encourages students to explore their ideas and find what will motivate them to create artwork when they are no longer doing it as a class requirement.
“Having a relatively small art program at NDSU, it's a really great opportunity to work with Lori and be taught painting from a fresh viewpoint,” said Sarah Svensson, a sophomore art major from Hopkins, Minn. “I am so glad that I decided to take advanced painting this semester. Lori is extremely smart and cool, and I am always excited to come to class.”
Larusso also talks with students about life as a professional artist and the initiative it takes to secure grants, exhibitions and residencies. “You can’t wait around for someone to tell you that you are a superstar and give you lots of money,” she said.
Larusso’s work will be displayed in NDSU’s Memorial Union Gallery April 17 to May 31 and in the Café Muse at the Plains Art Museum, Fargo, through May. To learn more about her work, visit www.lorilarusso.com/index.html.
Previous Rosenquist Residents were Hedi Schwobel, sculptor, 2007; Jonathan Pellitteri, sculptor, 2008; Min Kim Park, multimedia performances, 2009; Michael Namkung, kinesthetic drawing, 2010; James Sham, video, 2011.