We had the good fortune of connecting with Larry Goode and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Larry, can you tell us about a book that has had a meaningful impact on you?
Recently I re-read Roberto Bolaño’s 2004 novel, 2666. The Chilean author was dying of liver disease, writing with a sense of urgency that permeated the 900 plus pages. The main character, Archimboldi, is a reclusive novelist struggling to make sense of what it means to be, and how to live as a writer. He is completely dedicated to his work—to the detriment of his personal relationships and the life trappings most of us are used to. Feeling he has no other options, and nothing else that gives his life meaning, he dutifully writes novel after novel. In my reading, as the story unfolds, it is apparent that he can be only what he is, and only create what’s in him to create regardless of the many pressures and obstacles he meets. By the end of the story he is a well-known, if mysterious author who unburdens himself by finding peace working as a solitary gardener. It’s a lonely ending, but one that I found satisfying.
I sometimes find myself identifying with Archimboldi, and the struggle of being true to my creative self while trying to not be pulled off the path by various inspirations—such as other artist’s techniques and styles that I feel compelled to experiment with, insistent commercial needs, the desire for adulation, or just the opinions of others. Often these inspirations feel like strong magnets ushering me into a deep rabbit hole. Like Archimboldi, I’m coming to terms with the artist I am and not the artist I fantasize about becoming—in other words the artist I want to be keeps getting in the way of the artist I am, and I find it difficult to stick to the styles I have been developing (feeling somewhat guilty that I can’t seem to narrow the style down to one). I have to force myself to push the work and not step off my path, dazzled by old master’s work, fuzzy soft landscapes, and incredibly beautiful Instagram posts. Pushing forward with my style seems to be the only way to “get to the bottom of the matter”, or as another way of saying, to see where it leads. As a Zen monk might meditate daily on one thought (or no thought), or a mechanic might work on the same model engine year after year, becoming more skilled, I have to remind myself that it’s ok to be the artist I am and keep developing the work I do—as Archimboldi might.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a student of art history, I am intrigued by the path that art has taken through time, from the earliest cave paintings, through all the iterations of art, to the present and the connection to my work. I find intriguing the mindset of the endless parade of artists through history. I suspect most artists, whether they made a mark on a cave wall, block of stone, clay tablet, papyrus or a sheet of paper or canvas, then took a step back, wondering why they make art—as I do. Perhaps the ancient cave artist guiltily thought that they should be hunting instead of painting, with no other rationale forthcoming other than they paint because it feels right. I can imagine an Assyrian artist worrying about how people will judge his work? Did the dark ages monk who spent his life creating a single illuminated manuscript wonder what the hell he was doing (being a goatherd he might have had better food)? Parades of artists through time felt that making art was as valuable an activity as anything else—it’s something to do and it feels right. I subscribe to this philosophy, that making art is something good to do with the time I have. Art making gives me a reason to exist even though I find my artist’s existential life is hard to force into a concrete definition. In any event, I make mixed media pieces using antique old paper and other elements that were touched over time by numerous artists. I like to think that using reclaimed paper and discarded artifacts is a kind of salvation for the artistic spirit of past creative souls who are on the brink of erasure. Sometimes the items I use in my work are over one hundred years old, and it is especially in these items that I keenly feel a connection to the past. When I glue a piece of reclaimed paper from an old book on a wood panel, I feel a kinship with those who wrote, designed, bound, and illustrated that book, indeed even the people who wrote grocery lists and love letters in the margins of the pages. I find the link between that piece of paper and the ancient artist’s life, work and humanity, absolute.
History repeats itself, not only in monumental sweeps, but in the tiny events of the lives of long dead artists—who were just ordinary people: annoyed their coffee was cold, worrying about their sick dog, paying their gas bill, finding food, running out of paint, but were still able to stay the course with their work, inevitably aware that one day, they and their work will disappear—as I am reminded in my own work. My art is a nod to both the deconstruction and the salvation of everyday artistic artifacts (or memory). Everything eventually turns into dust. My work delays the demise of these reclaimed artifacts, and I’ve not lost the irony that my art and body will eventually reach an end. The work prolongs the inevitable end of one’s memory, and while it’s cold comfort, it’s still a comfort I enjoy.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
A few of my favorite places to visit in Austin are: The Austin Art Garage, where you can find great art by local Austin Artists. My favorite pastry spot has to be Paper Route Bakery, and for hanging out sipping espresso hands down it’s the Monkey Nest Cafe.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to thank all my friends and family who have been so encouraging and supportive. I would also like to thank the galleries showing my work and the fabulous collectors who have bought my paintings over the years.
All Images ©larrygoode 2020