Erin Rachel Hudak: Can you talk about the first piece(s) you made as a child that was important to you (materials, motivation etc.,)?
Larry Krone: One of the first things I remember making was a project in Kindergarten making masks out of inverted paper grocery bags. I was going with the shape and made it a Frankenstein kind of thing with rows of yarn on top for hair. I probably remember it so well because of all of the praise I got for it from my teacher and fellow students, not to brag!
EH: Your most recent show Together Again, at Brooklyn’s Pierogi, featured a piece that I have been in love with since I saw it in your studio a year ago: Then and Now (Cape Collaboration). What was your inspiration in starting this piece, and can you talk about the ‘collaborative’ aspect of the Cape?
LK: I am a compulsive thrift shopper and collector of things. I always look for the same things when I shop: 1950’s and 60’s clothes for myself, vintage lamps and kitchen items—particularly Melmac plastic dishes and collectible ceramics, autobiographies and vintage how-to books, handmade things and home crafts. For years I accumulated framed embroidery projects with the vague intention of hanging them on the wall. When I realized I would never have enough room for them all, I took them out of their frames and in handling them was touched by the individual lives and stories that each of the pieces seemed to contain. I was also struck by the (obvious) fact that they were fabric and that they could function as more than just merely wall-mounted visuals-they could be really used. I imagined making a coat modeled after a classic fur coat, each embroidery representing a “life,” in the way that individual pelts pieced together to make a huge fur are literal remnants of the precious lives of the animals sacrificed to make it. But as I got working, the amassing of all of these pieces in such an anonymous way felt wrong, like I was exploiting their creators. Instead, I decided to patch them together leaving space around them so that I could feature each piece and then enhance it with my own workmanship, sewing sequins one by one to cover all of the area not already embroidered. That felt fairer to me and satisfied my personal impulse to challenge myself to do ridiculous feats.
EH: I see the Hay Bales as one of your more subtle, tender sculptures. Partly because they are soft, the colors are more nature-oriented, it almost seems like they have a ‘supporting role’, but they are powerful on their own. They can be interpreted in so many different ways. Can you talk about the Hay Bales sculptures and your inspiration for creating them?
LK: I love thinking of the hay bales as having supporting roles, because it makes me imagine them checking out the bulletin board after auditions to see what parts they got in the big show. I guess they do take a back seat to much of the other stuff, maybe because they are not shiny, but to me they are right up there with the stars!
When I first started to make the Hay Bales, I didn’t intend for them to be such a big deal. I had been traveling a lot with my country music art performance revue routine, and I always asked the venue—often a museum or gallery—to supply me with bales of hay to help create a Western atmosphere. It was a hassle every time, so I decided to make my own portable hay bales as traveling set pieces. Of course I couldn’t just make them inflatable or out of printed fabric… too easy and practical! I wanted them to be outrageous and show my effort. Also, like much of my work, including the Cape, I wanted to limit my materials to things I could find in the thrift store… castaways and remnants from other people’s craft projects. So, I bought yarn that was as close to the colors of hay and straw that I could find and used it to latch hook panels that I sewed together to make hollow cases, the idea being that I could easily pack them in my suitcase unstuffed, fill them with whatever I could find at the venue, and sit on them while I performed. It turns out all that yarn is pretty heavy and bulky even without the stuffing. Also, each hay bale takes me about 3 months to make, so the idea of using them as furniture got scrapped. They are now purely works of fine art no matter how much they seem to beckon people to sit on them.
EH: Time, or the idea of it, is very evident in your work. Although it is not a direct message, I can never help but feel the layers of days in your sequins, or weeks passing on the hook and loom. Can you talk about the importance of time and process in your work?
LK: The element of Time is very important to me in my work in a lot of ways. Most recently, I have been thinking about it in reference to the Cape. It took me 2 ½ years to make that, which feels kind of luxuriously indulgent. As I’ve been getting older I have learned to value the personal experience of making the work as my own private reward. The feeling of having spent that much time with such intimacy devoted to one project is an experience that I will never forget. The piece may live on as something else to other people, but I will always have that personal connection and those years of my life to remember.
EH: I believe your mirror pieces are a fantastic blending of themes. They are at once hard-edge, and uncompromising, but also clearly vulnerable. Can you talk about your work with mirrors and what inspires you to use them as material.
LK: I have a lot of work that deals with my own masculine identity, and a lot of it uses country music and the world around it as a framework. I was attracted to saloon art including boudoir portraits like you’d see in Western movies and those beer logo mirrors that have been hanging in bars probably since forever. I got into the idea of mirrors for their formal qualities after my retrospective at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in 2006. When I looked at the show and imagined it as an outsider, it seemed that all of my work was so internal and self referential, not inclusive and engaging as I’d imagined it was. Mirrors were a direct way to engage the viewer. Right away, the viewer sees himself or herself when they look at a mirror piece, so from the start it is about something besides just me. I like the fact that the mirror can create that immediate connection and even a crazy kind of dialogue in a way that nothing else can. Also the shine.
EH: Language and text is vital in your work. Can you talk about the choice to use text or not, and where the phrases come from?
LK: I have a basic rule, which is that I only use words that come from country songs not written by me. Every now and then I break the rule, but the point is that the song lyrics are a found material with layers of meaning and associations the same way that the old embroideries and mirrors are. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but I never stop being thrilled by the fact that our most sincere, personal emotions are so often triggered and expressed by music, whether or not the music itself is sincere.
There was a point when I consciously challenged myself to NOT use text, because I felt like I had been using it as a crutch. I think that challenge turned out to be good for the work. Now I don’t impose that limitation, but I find that, as with any other material, I use text when it feels like the right material to use for a particular piece.
EH: In conjunction with your show at Pierogi, you performed at Joe’s Pub, in NYC. How and when did you begin to integrate your singer/songwriter performance into your artwork as a whole?
LK: My work has always referred to music and incorporated song lyrics. From the beginning, I related to a certain kind of vulnerability that I saw displayed by men in country music. I used it first in the objects that I was making, then in some lo-fi videos, and finally in actual live performance. Back then the point of performing was the possibility of failure and humiliation balanced with the opportunity to charm and win over a live audience. I never would have imagined that what I was doing would evolve into what it is now, which is more of a legitimate musical act incorporating my own songwriting and with the support of many talented performers and musicians. That has been the natural progression, though. Most of that original content is still there, and that’s important to me, but I can’t pretend to still be terrified of singing, because I’m not afraid anymore.
EH: In addition to your personal performative creations, you started your own fashion label, the House of Larréon. Can you talk about it–this label, and the Look Book you created?
LK: House of Larréon was born a few years ago at Joe’s Pub when my good friend, singer/downtown superstar Bridget Everett asked me to make something for her to wear onstage. She had been wearing a lot of Beyonce’s family’s clothing brand House of Deréon, but for some reason she couldn’t get it anymore. So stepping in as a replacement, I came up with the name as a one-time joke. But as Bridget’s fame increased, so did the attention I got for the clothes, and since then I’ve become Bridget’s exclusive designer. I’ve basically been riding the wave and taking on other exciting commissions along the way as they come. I don’t have any fashion training and I really have no goal of creating an actual fashion line, but I am having a ball and loving the opportunity to do something so challenging and fun. An extra perk is to be able to collaborate so closely with Bridget. We have a great time, and I’m learning a lot! Of course, if I can make something big happen with House of Larréon, I will.
EH: Can you tell us what’s next on the horizon?
LK: The exciting news right now is that I’ve been working with some talented people to produce an art book documenting all of my costumes, including the Western ones I’ve made for my own act and the newer House of Larréon stuff. It’s been a lot of work, and we don’t have the funding yet, but hopefully House of Larréon Look Book will be out sometime this year.
Also, I’m working on plans to go into the recording studio to make a CD with Kiam Records. Besides that, I have a couple of group shows lined up including “Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community” curated by John Chaich at the Leslie-Lohman Museum, and I’ll be getting back into my own cluttered studio to make more fine art masterpieces for the world to enjoy.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Erin Rachel Hudak: Born in Stow, Ohio in 1978, Erin Rachel Hudak creates collages, paintings and sculptures that discuss ideas of freedom, power, perception and transformation. Hudak’s artwork is often inspired by her personal relationship with nature juxtaposed with various histories of mans’ relationship with ‘The Land’. She received her B.F.A from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and attended Allegheny College for art and literature. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. Her artwork has been featured in Vogue Girl Korea, DailyCandy.com, Art+Culture.com, VillageVoice, Dailyserving.com, NY Daily News, Sun Valley Magazine, and The Brooklyn Eagle. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Larry Krone: Born in Chicago, IL in 1970, Krone was raised in St. Louis, MO and now lives and work in New York City’s East Village. He has exhibited work since the early 1990s, most notably at The Contemporary Baltimore, The Museum of Contemporary Craft in conjunction with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (Portland, OR), The Whitney Museum of American Art Philip Morris Branch (New York), The New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), the Drawing Center (New York), and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which, in 2006 presented “Larry Krone: Artist/Entertainer,” a ten-year retrospective of his visual and performance work.