"Sport taught me to push through discomfort," says sculptor Bruce Larsen

"Sport taught me to push through discomfort," says sculptor Bruce Larsen

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"Sport represents some of the best of humanity and I try and capture that," explains the author of sculptures such as Nastia the Gymnast or Borzov the Sprinter, which are exhibited in the American Sport Art Museum and Archives, the world's largest collection of art portraying sports.

Postmodern archaeologist and college monster costume creator

The collection of the American Sport Art Museum and Archives currently consists of more than one thousand works of art of all media: paitings, sculptures, graphic designs, posters, photographs and assemblages. The curators of this collection refer to Larsen's work as "Repo-Rennaissance", which they say means that he "combines the highly developed technical skills of classical artists in portraying the grace and power of natural bodies with contemporary social attitudes and ecological awareness." Inspired by the film Alien, Larsen began creating his own monster costumes in college. After graduating from the Auburn University, he worked as an animator and prop fabricator for TV commercials in Atlanta. Also nowadays he is known, among other things, for his film industry work. He's created a number of film props, such as the knife in Rage or the mirror in Oculus. His works are owned by Bill Clinton, Sting, Robert Plant, Philippe Cousteau or the Crown Prince of Bahrain. He built animatronic film horses for The Patriot and Black Knight, mutilated bodies for battlefield scenes set in the times of the Civil War in Lincoln and orchestrated special for many other commercials, films and TV shows. 

Bruce Larsen, Home Run. Source: al.com

"My first ambition before becoming an artist was to be an archeologist. I love to search for ancient relics and display them in a new light." The preservation of old relics in order to show them in a new eco-friendlier light is one of the primary goals of Larsen's art made from recycled material. He might reuse thrown away relics from the 20th and 21th century; the artist often digs through waste dumps. Larsen's eclectic style is also reflected in his forest studio set up in the garage under his house on Fish River where he builds most of his art. Shelves with various objects and tools are stacked up floor to ceiling.  White plastic buckets are full of handles, driftwood, adapters, tangled spindles, bent iron railings, bald doll heads or chestnuts still on twigs and the like.

Taking a break from the university, Larsen opened up an air-brush shop at the beaches of New Jersey where he painted fantasy pictures on motorcycles, boats and T-shirts. His original work caught the attention of East Coast surfing pioneer Dan Heritage, who hired Larsen to paint his surfboards. The fusion of sport and art proved profitable already then and bolstered his professional reputation, as Heritage's surfboards became legendary among the surfing community. 

Persistent athlete, focused artist

Larsen eventually returned to Auburn University and completed a bachelor's degree in illustration in 1987. After graduating, he lived in Atlanta for several years and worked as an animator and commercial sculptor for advertising. However, Alabama and the fine arts lured him back; together with his wife and children he built a home near the town of Fairhope.

Bruce Larsen, Golfer. Source: artlovessport.com

In high school, Larsen trained under the famous swimming coach Eddie Reese, the ex-coach of the Olympic star Michael Phelps. Being an enthusiastic athlete, he very naturally combines art and sport and uses his advanced physical skills to imprint that incredible grace on his massive steel constructions: "When I was very young, sports gave me my ability to focus. I learned to work hard from swim training. When I was eighteen, I was swimming twelve miles a day. It taught me to work hard and push through pain and discomfort. Now I simply outwork my competition. One of my secrets to success is that I have always worked harder than most people."

A fascinating testimony to Larsen's relationship to swimming is the Swimmer placed in the park of the American Sport Art Museum and Archives. In addition to Nastia the Gymnast and Borzov the Runner, the museum exhibits Larsen's statues of Tour de France cyclist, weightlifter, swimmer Mark Spitz, basketball player Michael Jordan or baseball player Bo Jackson.

"I had to wait 13 billion years to live this life and I am going to make the most of it," explains Larsen in one of his interviews. I know I am a bit of a gypsy blowing in the wind, but it is my personality. I question reality all the time but while I am here I am going to push and have as much fun as I can. Making art for movies or making art out of junk, I am lucky to get to do what I want and support my family doing it."

Bruce Larsen, Gymnast Nastya. Source: gulfcoastmedia.com

Bruce Larsen is an American sculptor and special effects artist. He's best known for his sculptures of animals and famous athletes created from recycled objects. Larsen lives in Fairhope, Alabama with his wife and three children. In 2009, he was named the Sports Artist of the Year by the United States Sports Academy. The Academy also houses some of Larsen's large-scale sports sculptures.

Bruce Larsen, the Borozov sprinter. Source: instagram of the author

Collection of material at the dumpsite. Source: Facebook Bruce Larsen


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Published 04.04.2023

Kateřina Kudláčová studovala Dějiny výtvarného umění a Ateliér audiovizuální tvorby. Chvíli se živila jako prodavačka starožitností, poté jako filmová klapka, nakonec zakotvila jako kulturní redaktorka v Literárních novinách, kde pracovala až do narození syna. Od té doby se kulturní publicistice věnuje externě. Kromě kultury ji zajímá téma duševního zdraví. Spolu s tím přirozeně znovuobjevila i v pubertálním období zavrženou lásku k pohybu (tenis, plavání, jízda na kole, běh, chůze lesem, městem, krajinou). Nyní pracuje v Divadelním ústavu v bibliografickém oddělení a nepřestává externě psát.

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