Painter Larry Horowitz is one of Cape Cod’s many treasured artists. Born in New York City in 1956, he started painting in his youth and apprenticed under several different artists through college and beyond. While he still calls NYC his home, he spends his summer in Wellfleet where he has a studio and has often been down to the Vineyard to inspire his landscapes
His method is one of placing two swaths of color and using them as participants in a conversation that spreads across the whole canvas. It is one of soft strokes, smooth gentle colors, and using a wide range of values and temperatures to create landscapes that are both highly detailed, and intensely emotional. The strong use of gestural backgrounds with distinctive horizon lines work together to create an emotional truth of a landscape that is uniquely, and distinctively Larry Horowitz. We were lucky to have the opportunity to call him up and ask him about his life and painting.
Q: How did you first get into painting? And are there any seminal memories that come to mind?
Oh of course. The classic and funniest memory-I was maybe 10 years old. And my parents would send me to this art camp on Long Island and I used to take sculpture. So I got home one year and my mother said that the sculpture class was full, she had been too late in signing up, so I had to take the painting. That was when I threw the last tantrum of my childhood. But from there I picked up the brush and just never put it down.
Q: Have you always been interested in landscape paintings? Or were there other styles? Other mediums?
I basically started off trying different things is the way I see it. Basically, there were 2 different tracks when I was 12 or 14…I did portraits and I was lucky to work with Gerald Fairclough who was a Vietnam artist and portrait painter. And I also studied the old masters. My parents were very good about buying art books and I was very interested in Vermeer and Rembrandt. I somehow found out that if I painted on linen, the old masters used linen, and if I was able to get my hands on linen, I would get a better result. So I went to the art store with my parents, and I remember the roll of linen was $268, which is like $3000 now. But my mother had these old linen drapes and they couldn’t afford the roll but weren’t going to let it go. So I came home one day and found all these drapes pulled down and my early early work was on these. Much of my work from that time is on these drapes that have these 50’s patterns and squares on the back, very 50’s.
Q: What does painting mean to you?
I mean, just in a general way, I have to paint. To me, it’s like breathing. If I don’t paint one day and it’s pouring out or I don’t get to my studio for some reason I’m in a horrible mood. For me, it’s like a scientific experiment…I go to my studio and see something that no human has ever seen before. It’s like an enigma within an enigma. You know the Joni Mitchel song? Big Yellow Taxi? That’s like my mantra. I go to these places that have a deep spiritual meaning for me and use concave and convex to give them emotions. They look like simple paintings, but it’s a lot deeper than that. There’s a lot of levels to my work and to painting in general.
Q: Where is your favorite place to paint?
Oh god, I’ve been all over. I’ve painted all of New England. I painted California from Yosemite to all over the coast, and Japan and Mt Fuji, and the glaciers in Iceland. I found that I can go to a place that I’ve ever been to before and find its essence, or at least my essence for it. So no, there have been so many moments that have come from painting and so many stories that have changed my life forever.
When I was in Iceland and painting I was part of a US artists overseas program. I met the ambassador and they invited me to Iceland. And in Iceland, everyone is related, so I got there and the person I was staying with called all her relatives to find somewhere with good weather and they would point me in a direction and I would go. And I have a bucket list of places to paint and one was the largest glacier in Europe and the other was the black sand beach. And I go and maybe it’s 400 miles from Snæfellsnes and I go from a bright sunny day to somewhere absolutely pouring. And this was a long time ago before tourists went. So there were no stores selling postcards, so signage. So I get to what looks like Snæfellsjökull, the national park, and I’m looking for this black sand beach. And I find this spot where I can park and maybe get down to the beach. But it’s pouring! So I sat and painted in my car.
I started with a pastel sketch in the car. And I convinced myself it wasn’t raining that hard. And the wind was maybe 40-50 miles an hour. And I decided I was going for this mile-long walk to the beach wearing everything I owned and went down to the beach with everything I had. And I was sitting and painting and the wind picked up my painting and it went facedown on the black sand. So I scraped it off the finished the stupid painting.
I was walking back absolutely exhausted and I hear this clip-clopping. And I look back and there’s this heard of wild horses behind me. And there’s this 1 leading horse and he starts nudging me to go faster. So I sped up and he kept nudging me. And I found myself, running maybe half a mile with these wild horses with my painting box, and with my soggy clothing, and it was absolutely wonderful. It was this moment between human and animal where it all just felt connected. Just beyond fabulous
Q:If you were on a desert island with 1 song, 1 picture, and 1 book, what would each of them be?
Well, Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter. That one’s easy
Something long and deep in Russian I’d read to 20 times to understand. Something by Tolstoy like Anna Karenina.
I’d guess I’d want something happy. I’d want it to be a woman, so I could dream. Maybe a painting by Vermeer, not girl with a pearl earring that’s too stark. There’s there’s one with a woman in a lapis lazuli dress, I can’t remember the title. And I’d take a reproduction, I wouldn’t want to damage it. hahaha.
Q: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for those hoping to build their own artistic careers?
All I can say is, be true to yourself. Tell the truth as you see it. The world is a very trendy place right now and everything is based on fame. And, you know, it can be daunting. You can go to Chelsea and be very influenced by that. But in a way, when you see it it’s already in the past. The present and the future is there in your mind, it’s yours to have. And no matter how long it takes the world will eventually catch up to you.
Keep working, try not to be a waiter, be willing to starve. You’re young, you don’t have a family, what’s the difference? Take a plunge, jump off a cliff with me. Work 80 hours a week and just keep creating.
Larry Horowitz will be having a solo exhibition at the Eisenhauer Gallery at 38 North Water St in Edgartown this Thursday, July 12. The artist will be present and this is just a taste of the many stories and adventures he has had while painting.
By Alyk Russell Kenlan
Interview conducted on July 9, 2018.