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Doris Wall Larson: Russell Langille, Champion
Doris Wall Larson
Russell Langille, Champion 1975
Originally from Saskatchewan, Larson made a long-time home for herself in Nova Scotia before eventually returning home to Saskatchewan. Her interest in the culture, history, and imagery of Nova Scotia is evident in her 1970s woodcuts such as Russell Langille, Champion. The design of this unusual print captures the flavour and drama of Russell Langille’s achievements as the 22-year champion dory racer of Oakland, Nova Scotia. With its border of seaweed and May flowers, and its vertical arrangement of portraits derived from photographs, the woodcut resembles both a Victorian family album and a medieval manuscript illumination. Doris Larson uses the history and technical limitations of the woodcut medium to add folk touches suitable to her subject matter.
This imagery is also evident in works that are not so thematically linked to the province. By incorporated designs from an old Nova Scotian headstone in Mother and Child VI, Larson brings a globally themed work closer to home. This technically complex print is her response to media pictures of atrocities suffered by civilians during the Vietnam War. Pointedly reusing the mother and child tradition in western art, Larson extends the inspiration of her own experience to explore motherhood with a global consciousness. Larson says, My work has always come from my life. When I had small children, they were the focus of my life and my art. Her choice of a venerable printmaking technique also counters the slickness of Vietnam-era coverage evoking the popular, mass-produced imagery of times past.
KB and from Now Appearing B. Purdy