The Paintings of Larry John Palsson

Posted February 4, 2014

 In the fall of 2011, at a house sale in a modest Seattle neighborhood, a local picker combing through mountains of seemingly ordinary household stuff made an astonishing discovery. There, among stacks of sci-fi paperbacks, engineering trade journals and electronic paraphernalia was a collection of box after box of paintings, sketches and mobiles – hundreds of pieces in all.

Larry John Palsson in his later teens or early 20s.

Larry John Palsson in his later teens or early 20s.

The art was the work of a man who saw life and art through a different lens, self-taught visionary artist Larry John Palsson (1948-2010), the home’s only remaining occupant who had passed away the previous November. After high school Larry had aspired to be an engineer. But he was unable to hold a job because of an unspecified medical condition — possibly a form of autism based on what we know.

Larry, with his mother Marjorie Palsson in 2002, visiting the gravesite of his father.

Larry, with his mother Marjorie Palsson in 2002, visiting the gravesite of his father.

An only child, Larry was just 15 when his father passed away. He lived with his widowed mother his entire life. What little we know about Larry comes from neighbors, a Palsson cousin and a single spiral-bound notebook found with his art. We’re told he was forever buying rosebushes that he never got around to planting. Everyday tasks could send him into a panic. He kept to himself and neighbors saw him as a “harmless recluse.”

Stylized mountains. Acrylic on paper. 8" X11-1/2".

Stylized mountains. Acrylic on paper. 8″ X11-1/2″.

Somewhere along the way, Larry taught himself to paint, creating a trove of hundred of paintings that are, in turn, playful, provocative, elegant, mysterious and mind-blowingly inventive. His conceptual ideas and design ability are fresh and compelling, and when Larry is at his best, the brushwork is extraordinary.

As with many self-taught artists, Larry painted on found material — from cereal boxes and advertising brochures to particleboard panels and Masonite.

Many of Larry's paintings were done on cardboard from a variety of household products.

Many of Larry’s paintings were done on cardboard from a variety of household products.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This whimsical painting was done on the Shredded Wheat box pictured above.

This whimsical painting was done on the Shredded Wheat box pictured above.

There are no records that document Larry’s creative journey – exactly when or why he started painting, no diary entries of discoveries and breakthroughs. But we can learn a great deal about the man and the artist from the paintings themselves. They were never framed; never seen by anyone other than family and friends; and, with one or two exceptions, never titled, signed or dated.

Larry's passion for engineering and geometry clearly inspired his visionary work.

Larry’s passion for engineering and geometry clearly inspired his visionary work.

Larry John Palsson is one of those individuals whose brain was uniquely wired and whose creative abilities were driven by a deeply personal inner vision. J Compton Gallery is pleased to represent this exciting discovery.

Dynamic shield motis. Acrylic on paper. 10-1/4" X 12". Untitled, undated, unsigned.

Dynamic shield motis. Acrylic on paper. 10-1/4″ X 12″. Untitled, undated, unsigned.

For more about Larry and his work, click here

To see paintings now offered for sale, click here.

 

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One Response to “The Paintings of Larry John Palsson”

  1. Clara Palsson Robinson | March 23rd, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

    Larry was the son of my Uncle John and Aunt Margie Palsson. I used to touch Aunties tummy and feel him move while she was still carrying him. He was a quiet person as he grew up and when we visited him, he would usually be very shy and not come out of his room. I now believe that he indeed was Autistic. I also believe, at this time, Aunt Margie was also Autistic. I stayed with them the Summer she was carrying Larry and helped clean their home. It was a lovely home North of where they were living, many years earlier.

    After Uncle John passed on we seldom saw Margie and Larry. I lived many miles North of them and worked all the time to raise my children. They did not have a car, therefore not able to visit with us. The last time I saw them was when, Ted Palsson, my nephew, my husband Tom and I went to the cemetery to take flowers
    on Memorial Day. Ted picked them up and we enjoyed the day with them. Most of my fathers side of the family are buried in Washelli. The Palsson brothers, from Iceland, have a great history of being inventive ( Uncle Mike), architecturally adept (Uncle Kris was instrumental in designing the PI Globe in Seattle with Pac’Car and the designing of the Space Needle in Seattle), adventurers (my father, Kari & brother Peter were fur traders on a vessel called “The Trader” inland on the Yukon River to Prudoe Bay area back in the late 1920’s and early 30’s. Kari then became a Longshoreman on the waterfront of Nome, Alaska until the late 1930’s. Uncle John became a hotel manager (owner ?) and a baker. I understand he was instrumental in designing beautiful wedding cakes for many of Seattle’s weddings and I know he worked in a Ballard bakery for many years. The sisters, Katherine Pooler & Asta Kristjanson were very talented seamstresses and made many of my childhood clothing. It is absolutely delightful to know that Larry John Palsson was able to be part of the artistic talents of the world, even though he apparently had a health issue. May he rest in peace!!

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