With her geometric—and sometimes disorienting—style, Mernet Larsen (BFA ‘62) has created a legacy over the past 50 years of her career.
Recently, the Tampa Museum of Art exhibited Mernet Larsen: Getting Measured, a survey of the artist’s works from her decades-long career. The retrospective exhibit included works as early as her high school years to works finished in 2017.
“Art was a way I could give form to my life,” Larsen said. “I was going to use it as a tool to find meaning and make everything seem whole.”
Larsen’s work resides in collections at museums such as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.
The artist is inspired by a variety of styles of art, including early Renaissance art and the geometric abstractions of Russian artist El Lissitzky. Larsen often conveys a feeling of vertigo in her works and wants each event captured in her paintings to be a singular, object-like entity.
Larsen began her journey as an artist while earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Florida. She says that the people in the art department inspired her to continue making the art and becoming an artist. The renowned painter and UF professor Hiram Williams was particularly influential for Larsen.
“He taught me that you could deal with representation without having to be conventional,” she said. “Then, my path became how to reinvent the conventional view.”
Larsen is now a professor at the University of South Florida, where she inspires students to use art as their guide. UF School of Art + Art History students traveled to meet the artist and see the exhibition with UF Professor Richard Heipp before the close of the show.
“Don’t let somebody tell you what art is,” she said. “When you are a student, use the art to help you realize who you are. Use it as a method for discovering the world.”