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Jacqui B. Larsen

Jacqui Biggs Larsen was born in Syracuse, New York in 1962. She creates mixed media collages. She currently lives in Utah.

Larsen earned her BFA in 1986, and her MFA in 1988 from Brigham Young University. Her collages demonstrate her view that human's nature is dual-part earthly and part spiritual. She explores childhood, sisterhood, and maternity in ways that question western tradition.

Larsen's work has been exhibited at the EIO Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio and at '95 National Small Works Exhibition, Schoharie Arts Council, Cobbleskill, New York. It was part of the 70th and 71st Utah spring salon at the Springville Museum of Arts, and also at Spiritual and Religious Art of Utah show at the Springville Museum of Art.

Biography adapted from Artists of Utah.

As a girl, Jacqui Biggs Larsen rode her bike down to the local strip mall and dug through dumpsters for bits of this and that, which she used to make cards for her family. However, when she majored in art at B.Y.U., she was pushed toward a more academic approach, partly by the structure of the art program, which focuses in the beginning on developing basic skills and a visual vocabulary. In her advanced classes she was dissuaded at times by particular teachers from creating the kinds of works she now creates - a complex combination of collage, montage, and assemblage that generally includes some drawing and painting.

Jacqui Larsen says her works are, like many artists', ways to "define the self," to explore who she is. Although her works are Postmodernist, she says none of the academic work was left behind or lost, just incorporated into the particular kind of work she now does. (She is remembered by classmates as being one of the best draftsmen in their classes.) Her works reflect the complexity of the times, the complexity of women's lives, and in particular, her own complexity.

She says she finds "herself exploring childhood, sisterhood, maternity in ways that question western traditions of idealism. By replacing representations of femaleness with images of everyday women, I hope to piece together new myths and narratives." In these ways, Larsen is also a feminist artist, concerned with issues contemporary women face.

To create her artworks, Larsen uses "actual artifacts and photographs, torn-up maps, pins, string, casters, quilts, old savings stamps." She believes "these artifacts provide an entrance to her pieces and physically attach them to the here and now." This dual role of the artifacts, being old but in the present, is representative of what Larsen says is "at the heart of our experience - contradiction." We are part earthly creatures and part spiritual, and Larsen "seeks in some way to bring these realms together."

Like many postmodernists, Larsen's work is layered with meaning, and although the symbols often have personal meaning, they also are universal enough to allow viewers to understand and to tie the images and ideas into their own experiences. Larsen wants to know why and how she got to be who she is - to be aware of choices and possibilities. Viewers who seek to understand Larsen's work are likely to find themselves motivated to explore and question as well.

Jacqui Biggs Larsen's ability to create powerful artworks that provoke us to examine our lives and what they mean has garnered her many awards, fellowships, and grants; most recently, two grants and a fellowship from the Utah Arts Council, and the first place award in the Spring Salon at the Springville Museum of Art, April 1998.

Larsen's piece, Cottage Industry, also is a feminist work, in the best sense; it explores issues common to women. The artwork protests the categorization, duplication, and trend-following that is particularly strong among women. However, the artwork does not reject all traditional values. The composition uses an antique quilt as the stretched backing. The quilt is mellowed, worn, beautiful, but not a carefully made heirloom. The pieces vary in size and shape not as parts of a particular design, but rather with what must have been available scraps. The doll clothes are from a Shirley Temple doll, the child actress who defined what a beautiful little girl should be for at least two generations, dimples, carefully curled ringlets and a combination of bright-eyed innocence and sweet flirtation - a real doll. The numbered tickets along the sides of the piece, the repetition of images, and the joined rulers (used to produce two drawings with the same proportions) all protest the production of copies, especially copies of people.

Jacqui herself says, "In Cottage Industry, I found myself exploring tensions between childhood and societal expectations. Even the title echoes this. Cottage implies a quaint domestic setting, one in which a four year old, like the one pictured ironing (who happens to be me), could grow up unimpeded. Industry, on the other hand, suggests a mechanized, defined outcome or product. I began this piece with a vintage quilt as background. It caught my attention because of its obvious homemade quality, pieced together from sewing scraps and worn clothing, and the randomness of the colors and patterns. The rips and stains, echoes of its history of household use, made the perfect background against which I could juxtapose more mechanized images. The picture frame, for instance, crops the young girl ironing at the shoulders, perhaps reducing her to a specific function.

The three Shirley Temple paper doll dresses, I hope, are more open-ended: are they otherworldly Muse figures, or societal cutouts suggesting appropriate girlhood activities, such as dancing, gathering fruit, or making crafts? By repeating the image of myself ironing across the bottom of the canvas, I not only echo the rhythm of the repeating quilt squares, but also mimic an industrial production line, one which produces little girls as though from a template. The act of ironing, then, becomes the girl's difficult work: how to labor authentically and become a self rather than a product."

Biography courtesy Springville Museum of Art.

Periodical

"300 Plates The First Annual Art Access Fundraiser & Exhibition." 15 Bytes, http://www.artistsofutah.org/newsletter/03may/page4.html (accessed October 23, 2008).

Books

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, Donna L. Poulton, and Janie L. Rogers. 150 Year Survey Utah Art & Artists. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2002.

 Last Modified 4/23/14