museums&MORE Spring 2010
Artist Spotlight: Larry Moss

You may think you know what the Mona Lisa looks like, but I can almost guarantee you’ve never seen it quite like this. Whereas daVinci used paint, airigamist Larry Moss shapes air with the use of balloons to recreate well-known
masterpieces, paying homage to Cezanne, Warhol and others in a rather unique fashion.

And while his medium may be a bit unconventional, many of his airigami” creations are inspired by the greatest artists of the past, providing a bridge to make some very well known art more accessible to a completely different audience than would have appreciated it previously.

“I work in a very peculiar medium and people take notice of art that’s created with it,” Moss said. “Balloons always turn heads and they make people smile. Art created in many other media may come with baggage — pre-conceived ideas of meaning and usage. Balloons still strike people as a novelty.”

Masterpiece Series
Moss is a master sculptor and craftsman who has been featured on television and film, in major newspapers and magazines and in the Guinness Book of World Records, but his background originates in performance art, from music to magic.

During his early days as a New York City street performer, Moss used balloons as a colorful gimmick to attract a crowd and only later realized that the balloons themselves could keep their attention. He eventually drifted away from music and magic and became more focused on the balloons. These days, the transition has moved further from stage performance and more toward large installation pieces.

“Most of what I’ve done for the last decade has been the temporary installation pieces, and this is still the bulk of my work,” Moss said. “These are pieces commissioned for a specific location or event. Sometimes they are events themselves, like Balloon Manor — a 10,000 square foot, 10 room, walk-through haunted house. On a smaller scale, I’ve done commissioned portraits/caricatures out of balloons.”

Most of his work is temporary, but he also creates framed prints of his work. The newest area for Moss is the masterpiece series, where he has taken some of the most recognized paintings out there and turned them into 3-D sculptures using balloons.

“The idea was to re-imagine old masterpieces in an accessible form for a modern audience,” Moss said. “I wanted to make the new pieces available for anyone, from an art collector to the lay audience. This makes some very well known art more approachable to a completely different audience than would have appreciated it previously.”

Moss has sold his work in various forms for almost 25 years. While the fine art prints and famous painting reproductions are something he’s only been working on for the last couple years, he has sold his art directly during his own shows, and smaller gift shops and bookstores have started carrying his work.

With the masterpiece series, he’s more interested in getting the work into museums and has made his work available as limited edition fine art prints — signed, numbered and framed; note cards and greeting cards; open edition giclee prints and T-shirts. He feels this way it appeals to people that collect art in many different ways.

“The note cards are great for a gift shop with an art-educated audience that just appreciate the fun aspect of them,” Moss said. “It’s the easiest way for someone that enjoys them to share them with others. T-shirts are a modern method of displaying artwork, so they seemed like a natural way to display these interpretations of the classics.”

What he creates in public spaces is very different from what people take away from a gift shop. For shops, Moss said the greeting cards get an abundant response because a card is something you don’t keep for yourself, but rather something you can immediately share with others. Because his work is so different, it’s something people always want to share.

Accessible Art
Moss likes to share his art with as many people as possible, and that means making it accessible to those that have varying degrees of art experience.

“Balloons are so often thought of as a toy, but really, it’s a medium that everyone can relate to,” Moss said. “There are no stuffy art ‘rules’ about how to use balloons. That means everything I do is new and unexpected and everyone smiles when they see what can be done.

“It’s still important to me to present new things in ways that surprise the audience,” he continued. “The large sculptures are designed to involve the community and my fine art pieces are designed to make people think about what art is.”

Moss himself finds inspiration anywhere and everywhere, be it walking through the park or walking through museums, seeing what other people call art and how other media is used to create things. He tries to learn from others that don’t work with the same materials he does and encourages aspiring artists to study art that’s out there, and to build an appreciation for what moves other people.

“But don’t try to replicate it, and don’t be swayed from an idea you think is good just because the ‘art crowd’ says it’s bad,” Moss said. “Go with your gut. Listen to the common folks that aren’t necessarily ‘art educated’ to learn what people like.”

There have been obstacles for Moss along the way, as it’s quite common for him to run into people —
or worse, funding organizations — that only look at the medium he works with and not the art he produces. These people often refuse to accept that balloons are a valid medium for art.

“Different isn’t always good,” Moss said, “but you’ll never find those great, unexpected gems if you only look at what has sold in the past. Look for non-traditional art in non-traditional venues and you’ll be amazed at what’s out there.”

What’s out there for Moss right now is a project he’s calling Elastic Park, inspired by Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. It’s been designed to be a traveling museum show that combines art with science, and a great deal of work has gone into developing dinosaur and pre-historic creations with balloons that can be reconstructed in venues around the country. Moss said the goal is to teach science and art in a truly unique way.

Actually, the main goal of Moss’ art is to make him and others smile. Since balloons don’t last, he has to work quickly. And while he usually goes into things with a design, when it comes down to getting a piece done, he just has to work with the material and is often surprised where he ends up.

“My art also gives me a way to work with community groups,” Moss added. “I love to see people working together on projects and having shared experiences that they enjoy. Bringing people together with art is really what keeps me going.”

Social Connections

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