I met Larry Fane soon after he had been elected into the National Academy in 2002, not long after I had started working there as a curator. Larry graciously agreed to sit on the Academy’s Exhibition Committee, and over the course of his two-year term we developed a fondness for one another and a shared affinity for all things sculptural. Larry’s gentle demeanor, an indefatigable curiosity, and his ability to present magnificent ideas, both verbally and visually, in a modest sotto voce, were some of the things that struck me immediately about him.
Larry’s interests transcended his artistic pursuits and he introduced me, as well as many others, to the Italian Renaissance engineer and artist, Mariano Taccola. Taccola became an inspiration for Larry and he spoke about this with infectious enthusiasm. After studying Taccola’s notebooks for nearly a year in 1993, Larry wrote a scholarly article on them and his sculpture took a decided turn toward wood carving of what often appear to be mysterious implements of another world. His most recent body of work is, in many ways, a culmination of his various interests and illustrates Larry’s skill in carving and combining wood with other materials to create sculptures of enigmatic elegance. As with many of his works, these objects appear to have a utilitarian purpose suggested by their titles such as “Separator”, “Regulator”, and a series of small wall-mounted sculptures he called “Purifiers”.
Many of us knew that Larry was ill, but he was very private about this. A few months ago, I invited him to an exhibition of a sculptor’s work that I thought he might enjoy. I was anxious to hear his insight on the work and we made a date. He called the day before our appointment and regretted that he would have to cancel because he was not feeling well. I understood and I told him that I hoped that we could reschedule. He agreed, but we never did. At his recent opening at Zabriskie Gallery, just days after he passed, among a large group of his friends, former students, colleagues, and family, there was a strong sense of both Larry’s absence and his presence. Like his sculpture, Larry was quiet yet grand, gentle yet strong, and without a doubt, much greater than the sum of his parts.
ContributorMarshall N. Price