The Columns

Larry Stene: It’s Personal

— by on February 16th, 2016

For his last exhibition before he retires from Washington and Lee University as a professor of studio art, Larry Stene has sorted through 43 years of work and chosen pieces that tell a story.

“A lot of my work is deeply personal, and I’ve always created art for myself,” said Stene. “I wouldn’t have spent hundreds of hours on these pieces if they didn’t mean something to me. There’s nothing in this show that I wouldn’t want to keep for myself.”

The exhibition runs Feb. 15 – March 19, with a lecture by Stene on Feb. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in Wilson Concert Hall at W&L. The talk is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception.

Featuring digital prints and sculpture, his art reflects his lively observations and interpretations of his immediate environment — his family, multiple rescue dogs, a rural home, students, colleagues, friends and travel. Though the intent is suitably serious and contemplative, many of the works are seriously humorous as well.

There is also a packrat element implied by multiple layers, décollage, texture and intense color, all of which is inspired by Stene’s boxes of assorted treasures, including birch bark fragments, wallpaper debris, rusted sheet metal, scrap leather, old photographs, Hawaiian shirts, antique toys and photographs of peeling billboards. Throughout his 50 years of making art, Stene’s work has remained both thematically consistent — often invoking age and gentle, unsolvable mysteries — and multifaceted, owing in large part to his definitive mastery of multiple materials and techniques.

Stene began his art education at Minnesota State University at Moorhead and received his M.F.A in sculpture from the University of Illinois, Champaign, in 1973. He taught at North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University at Bemidji before coming to Washington and Lee in 1982.

According to Stene, “Making art is personal — it grows and changes with time. My one-person exhibit is actually a group show — a gathering of my younger and older selves. It is about stepping back and enjoying who I am and what I make. My most recent sculpture, drawings and prints will happily share the gallery with the work of the relative neophytes.”

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