Larkin Ford spent his formative years in rural North Carolina and earned his BFA degree at UNC Asheville before relocating to Atlanta. He weaves personal experience into enigmatic narratives through drawings, paintings, and sculptures. Ford’s work was included in The Oxford American magazine’s New Superstars of Southern Art, selected for the Juror’s Prize at the 2016 New Kids exhibition at Eyedrum Art Gallery, and awarded Best in Show by juror Radcliffe Bailey in a 2016 GSU exhibition. Ford had a solo exhibition at UNC Asheville in 2016.
Interviewed by Ariana Yandell
Q: Looking at your work, I see a bit through the lens of Edward Hopper and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. There are elusive and grotesque elements at play in some of your work. For you, does the grotesque fall under a sense of schadenfreude or some other realm of critique?
A: For me, the grotesque body always comes back to an insistence on our materiality by exaggerating the permeable borders between the body’s interior and exterior. Wounds, dialysis tubing, open mouths, urination, and defecation have found their way into various works. Although there is often an implication of pain, there’s also an element of farce in many instances of the grotesque, as in the young man urinating through the screen door.
The wounded or deteriorating bodies, on the other hand, are tragic figures. When I use elements of the grotesque—the reduction of individuals to bodies—I use it in order to emphasize our transitory state, our vulnerability and mortality. The work often springs from emotional sore spots, so the imagery is inevitably charged, but I do my best to paint from an unsentimental position.
Q: There is a lot of pictorial space and emphasis on elongated limbs, fragmented or otherwise jutting angularly in your work. I was wondering if you could speak more towards the nature of these fragmented or disjointed limbs?
A: Reaching limbs suggest curiosity and vulnerability. I think of them as feelers, like a snail’s eye stalks, probing for meaning or exploring unfamiliar areas. In some cases they cross thresholds, reaching into open space or intruding into others’ territory. I also find that large, cropped limbs lead the viewer more directly into the illusionistic space than figures seen from a comfortable distance. This sense of physical proximity can implicate the viewer in the unfolding action.
Q: Your figures do not exist in a comfortable suburban cul-de-sac nor a lavish beachfront vista. They live in mild disarray and often in buildings isolated from others. Where do these figures fit into the grand socio-economic scheme of things? Is this important for your work?
A: Generally, these figures reflect the rural South, or the swath of it that most interests me, having grown up there. Dilapidated or cluttered interiors are very often the product of abject poverty and genuine struggle. I’ve tried to represent these homes in some of my paintings. On the other hand, my own home is messy because tidiness is a low priority. That messiness enters the work because I find it’s visually rich, loaded with ambiguous symbolism, and underrepresented in contemporary painting. Domestic disorder mirrors the chaos of life.
Ariana Yandell received her undergraduate degree in Art History from Georgia College. She is currently a 2nd-year MA Art History candidate with a concentration in Modern and Contemporary Art.