We sat down with acclaimed balloon artist Larry Moss during the Affordable Art Fair - in which he was a featured artist - to ask him all our burning questions about what a balloon art studio actually looks like and what masterwork he couldn't live without.
We'll also be posting pictures of Larry's fantastic sunflower art installation and his family workshop in the next few days! And stay tuned for more exciting collaborations in the works between Larry Moss & LittleCollector.
PLUS: Larry will be designing a full scale balloon float that will be featured in this weekend's Pulaski Day Parade!
LC: You work a lot with children. What is their response like to your work & the humor within it? You must have received some pretty hilarious comments over the years.
LM: Kids and adults alike smile when they see my work. Some art is meant to make you think. Other art is meant to generate a range of different emotions. I like that people just smile.
I often hear people say, "wow, your creations are like art." It used to irritate me to hear that, but I've learned to laugh at it. What people seem to mean by it is that they've always thought of balloons as toys, and "balloon art" as a kids' activity. I've turned it into something they didn't expect. No one expects art to be created from toys, so to them it's "like art."
One of my favorite comments from a child came from my own daughter. She came home from school one day and said, "Daddy, did you know someone else made the Mona Lisa also?" While I laughed then and continue to laugh at it now, it made clear to me the need to start teaching art appreciation early. I've always filled my house with art, and obviously the mere exposure makes a difference for a child, but that's not enough.
LC: Since airigami creations are ephemeral in nature they depend a lot on the viewer and viewer's memory of their experience. What does the audience's participation mean to you?
LM: I feel all art, not just mine, should be experienced more than just looked at. Participation doesn't have to be extremely active. On one end of the spectrum, it can be as simple as having a discussion about a piece. Of course, it doesn't have to stop there. When I can, I like to place the audience within the art. My installations are usually designed to be interactive in some way. I like creating pieces that leave room for the audience to pose and be photographed. This makes the piece different for each person. Each memory or photo of the piece will be different since the subject changes with each viewer. A photo is just a snapshot during the life of a sculpture. Taking things even further, I like to turn the "audience" into participants in the creation of the largest of my pieces. Balloon Manor, a 10,000 square foot haunted house made from balloons, was a community effort. I've had up to 350 community volunteers aid in the construction of it. Each person played a role in completing the work.
Of course, not all Airigami creations are ephemeral. The prints that LittleCollector sells, for example, aren't simply photos of ephemeral art. The art is the final piece that's intended to hang on a wall. These are created differently than 3D installations. The blending of the 2D and 3D objects are what these pieces are all about.
LC: Tell us about your working process. Do you make sketches or mock ups when planning your pieces? What does your studio look like?
LM: Well, people can see a section of my studio all the time. We have a webcam permanently mounted. (http://www.airigami.com/webcam/) I just looked. It's kind of a mess at the moment, and I guess it will stay that way for a while since I'm traveling. If you're lucky, you can catch a glimpse of Kelly and I working on a project.
We have a large open space that constantly gets filled with balloons. On days that we're planning, random sculpture pieces just get scattered everywhere. We're currently working on illustrating the Three Little Pigs. So on some days there are pig heads or other body parts piled up. On other days, models of houses of various construction fill the space. It can actually be quite amusing to walk in on a big building day. We also have a lot of lighting gear that gets spread around for the photo part of the process.
LC: Building a community through large-scale balloon installations is a large part of your mission. What do you hope visitors and participants will take away from your creations?
LM: Art doesn't have to be stuffy and overly cerebral. I want people to experience the joy of creating when they're working on my community pieces. Balloons, as a medium, level the playing field between those that are art trained and those that are not art trained. Few people have used balloons for art. Therefore, everyone experiences something new.
LC: The Master Works series is like the Art History 101 class we wish we had. What is the one piece of art you couldn't live without?
LM: I don't think there is a single piece of art that I can't live without. Art is all around us, from the Master Works that I studied to the car that gets me to the studio to the clock on the wall. Someone (or a lot of someones) designed each. Each has beauty in it's form and function. I certainly have favorite pieces. I do have a thing for clocks, so Dali's Persistence of Memory is one that has a special place in my heart.