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Larry Scott


Larry Scott
Don Griffin and Larry Scott's "Village Blues."

By Bret McCabe | Posted 11/21/2007

Pink was the problem. Its very presence was the issue for local artist Don Griffin, its absence for artist Larry Scott, who passed away Nov. 7 from a heart attack at the age of 50. The two local artists had begun collaborating on pieces together after first meeting in 2000 and becoming close friends. But that didn't mean they always saw eye to eye.

"We had quite a bit of collaborative work, and that's where I really got to know Larry," Griffin says by phone. "People used to tell us we were joined at the hip. It got to the point where we would communicate just through the work. I would know what he wanted to do, he would know what I wanted to do. And we would have these arguments."

Griffin laughs at the word coming out of his mouth. "It was none of the negative stuff, we just had fun," he says, before recounting an anecdote about their most recent "argument," concerning a large work, "Village Blues," included in their collaborative show Passport to Equinox at Sub-Basement Artist Studios earlier this year. "We were both kind of struggling through it, and I said, `What do you think about it?' And he said, `Well, I think it needs some pink.' And I said, `Pink? Nah, man, I can't do pink.' And he said, `That's what I'm feeling.'

"I was pretty resistant to the pink. And he just kept saying, `That's what I'm feeling.' So I said, `Look, if you're feeling pink, you better put it on there because that's the only way it's going to get on there.'"

And then Griffin laughs again, perhaps realizing he's succinctly traced an inside peek at the instinctual, considered process of one of Baltimore's most emotionally and psychologically gifted artists of the past decade. Scott had been practicing art his entire life, but it wasn't until the late 1990s that he was able to pursue his craft full time. But during that brief window of his life, Scott not only turned out work at a furious pace but also created pieces of fascinating power and depth. Scott was one of those few creative minds who was as gifted as he was prolific.

Scott was born in Columbia, S.C., raised in Newark, N.J., and moved to Baltimore in 1991 for work. He left his job in the late '90s to devote himself to his art, around the time when he started meeting a cadre of fellow local artists.

"I responded to his work, his personality, and the fact that he worked," says artist Jeffrey Kent, the founder and director of the Sub-Basement Artist Studios that represented Scott. Kent first met him when Kent moved back to Baltimore in the late 1990s, and they soon started working together. "That's the most important thing to me as a person who is trying to sell work--that an artist does work. And that's definitely one thing he did--he did work, and it just came real easy to him. Extremely prolific, all the time. It was amazing."

Scott first started showing his works in local caf%uFFFDs, working on found or thrift-store canvases, ranging from drawings and mixed-media works to paintings. Though self-taught, his work betrayed neither the hesitancy nor cavalier attitude of so-called visionary artists. Even early pieces from Scott's professional career contain evidence of his always active mind: a probing eye very interested in the human form and face, gestural confidence in each and every mark he put on a page, and a musical vivacity informing his colors and compositions. That he was able to invest such skill and insight so consistently was hard to fathom. If you caught his expansive 2005 Evolution of Depression at Sub-Basement, it boggled the mind to be faced with the tonal range and emotional depth he invested in each and every blank slate to which he lent his eye.

It's that quality that remains with Griffin, who met Scott in 2000 and, together with local artist Tony McKissic, formed a peer circle for life and art confabs, was also impressed by the breadth and quality of Scott's work ethic. "I think the most interesting thing about Larry was that he was one of the most prolific artists I have ever known," Griffin says. "His output was insane. He could just go at it for hours and hours, and his work was very powerful."

"What he did, it's total concentration," says Gary Kachadourian, visual arts coordinator for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, who included Scott in a few Artscape shows. "What he made, he had total concentration on it, and every decision was acute and accurate. No matter where he went--like a lot of places you tell people not to go, never go there--Larry'd go there and it'd look good. He's doing something that people don't really do much anymore and he's doing it fresh. And I think that's the thing--it's totally fresh and totally focused.

"There are some artists you see and think if they make the right decisions in the next five years they're going to be great, if they make the wrong decisions, it'll be not so great," Kachadourian continues. "Larry, to be honest, I think almost any decision he made would probably be a good decision, because it was about making the work. It was about the hand, the eye, and the brain connected to the canvas."

Case in point, the pink. "The pink did make it into the piece!" Griffin says by e-mail. "I left the studio and returned the following day to discover the threat had been carried out. He had this mischievous grin on his face, and asked me was I feelin' it. I stood in front of the piece and contemplated for a moment and said, `I'm feelin' it. I think it works . . . You cracked it wide open, Pollock.'"--a quote from Ed Harris' Pollock biopic. "We used that line when we made great accomplishments in work."

And those decisions yielded work that responded with collectors and fans alike. "I've been getting calls and e-mails from people around the globe who have heard about him passing and just expressing how much they appreciated having an opportunity to meet him," Kent says. "And that's the one thing that eases my mind about him passing on is that I know, from the Larry that I know, that he was happy. There's no doubt about that. He really progressed [as an artist]--he became more and more free with it."

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