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Biography from Morris Museum of Art Larry Connatser (1938 - 1996)
Laurence Stuart Connatser, the only child of Roy and Evelyn (Meyers) Connatser, was born on September 17, 1938, in Birmingham, Alabama. The family lived in the vicinity of his paternal grandparents' cotton farm, but, in the early 1940s, Roy Connatser, a mechanical engineer, relocated the family to Atlanta, where Larry attended public schools. The valedictorian of his class at Northside High School in 1956, young Connatser was also the editor of the school newspaper and an accomplished pianist. He studied music from the time he was eight until he began his college education, and, although he contemplated continuing his musical studies, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in English literature at Vanderbilt in 1961.While still a college student, Connatser and his friend and fellow student, ***** ***** Allen, opened Tulip Is Black, Nashville's first coffeehouse. This business venture became a gathering place for poetry readings and folk singers. Although he had not yet begun to paint, Connatser was influenced by a Vanderbilt art professor, the Austrian-born expressionist Eugene Biel-Bienne, whose work was exhibited at the coffeehouse. Independently, he also studied art history, which exerted an influence on the unique style he developed as a self-taught artist.Following his graduation, Connatser moved to Chicago and worked for an educational publishing firm. In his spare time, he quickly poured his energy into painting and developed a distinctive style using acrylic paints executed on Masonite. Flattened forms and imaginary figures often outlined in black marker populated his dreamlike spaces and eventually evolved into paintings covered by dots. They were not conceived in the style of pointillism but have been likened to an expressionistic visual articulation of Larry's musical training with an equivalent sense of rhythm and interlocking forms. His work was well received, and, beginning in 1963 with the financial aid of his parents, he was able to pursue painting full-time. His first solo exhibitions were in***** Xavier College in Chicago and at Berman-Lipman Showrooms in Atlanta. Within months, his work was included in the sixty-ninth annual exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and exhibited at the Newark Museum in New Jersey.He exhibited in Atlanta at the School of Architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology in 1967 and at Georgia State College Art Gallery in 1968. His work was exhibited the following year at the David Strawn Art Gallery in Jacksonville, Illinois, the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina, and in several group exhibitions at art galleries in Georgia and Illinois. The Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences (now the Chrysler Museum of Art) in Virginia acquired one of his paintings for its collection of contemporary American art.In 1971, Connatser returned to his home state, settling in Savannah. For the remainder of his life he maintained a residence there but later added an apartment in Atlanta while also maintaining a studio at his parents' home in Highlands, North Carolina. He was a prolific artist who worked on several projects simultaneously, at times completing a painting in a single day or conversely, leaving a work unfinished until someone showed interest in making a particular purchase. His lifelong interest in music gave his work form and structure as he explored personal themes in paintings, which were usually untitled. His work changed with the change in locale, and he began executing monumental works and murals.Two public mural commissions executed in Atlanta during this decade gave him increased exposure, while exhibitions of his work in several venues elsewhere in the South—Savannah College of Art and Design and Armstrong State College (now Armstrong Atlantic State University) in Georgia, the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina, the Hunter Gallery of Art (now the Hunter Museum of American Art) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Edison Community College in Fort Myers, Florida, and private galleries in Atlanta—garnered additional attention.Two of his commissioned murals brought Connatser's art into daily contact with Atlanta's visitors and citizens. The first, executed in 1974, was a seven-story mural on a commercial building next to a downtown parking garage. Commissioned by Urban Walls, it was a joint venture of the Arts Festival of Atlanta and Central Atlanta Progress with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Immediately recognized as an important part of the urban landscape, the mural was featured on the cover of the magazine of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on May 19, 1974. Another commission consisted of twin murals, seventy feet long and two stories high for the Decatur MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) station, part of Atlanta's subway system. Completed in 1979, the murals have been featured in magazines and publications and appeared on the monthly transit card for January 2002.Connatser exhibited extensively in the following years but preferred to sell his work through personally staged private exhibitions for a select audience of interested people. He continued to show at private galleries on a limited basis and when invited, entered his work in larger exhibitions.He achieved wide regional recognition in his lifetime. Georgia Public Television included him in a documentary on Georgia's up-and-coming artists, and he was selected to design the 1984 Arts Festival of Atlanta poster. He designed a floor mural at the Savannah College of Art and Design and was a guest artist at Coker College in South Carolina. During this period, his work was exhibited at museums in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.Larry Connatser was an artist out of the mainstream. His innovative work was inspired by music, surrealism, and his intensive lifelong study of art history. Though untrained as a painter and despite his determination to live in the Deep South, Connatser's work was widely known and was often favorably reviewed. By the time of his only retrospective exhibition, Southern Melodies, at the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah in 2002, he had succumbed to AIDS, and his reputation had slipped into obscurity. His lively murals continue to grace the Decatur MARTA station. His work is in the permanent collection of the Telfair Museum of Art and of the Morris Museum of Art, which is the residuary beneficiary of the Connatser estate.Further Reading:Connatser, Larry. Southern Melodies: A Larry Connatser Retrospective. Savannah, Georgia: Telfair Museum of Art, 2002.Artist files, Center for the Study of Southern Art, Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia.Karen Towers KlacsmannAdjunct Assistant Curator for ResearchMorris Museum of ArtAugusta, Georgia
The value of your painting is $900-1100.00
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