VIDEO: A brief tour of Larry Spring's universe.
Common sense physics was how Larry Spring described his amateur work, investigations, and homespun notions of physical phenomena. He aspired to make theory tangible, through his production and collection of artifacts and objects inspired by what he understood to be his keen powers of observation. 'Let the Energy be Your Teacher' was his common sense mantra.
Through his life, Spring maintained a stubborn resistance to mainstream physics and in many ways this resistance enlivened his output. His anti-professional stance was evident in the handmade aspects of his works and displays which literally lacked polish and coherent explanation.
Spring's approach to making objects was about reconfiguring the existing and the recognizable. Found objects and repurposed artifacts were important materials and all in line with his common sense, waste not want not ethos. Fragments of things became things in their own right — a tuna can became a motor, a collection of rocks became a dinner party, an assortment of carton lids became a storage system. Each object took on a different meaning and function according to his use, and as always, became part of his kinetic method of inquiry.
GALLERY: A selection of photographs that represent objects from Spring's collection.
Navigate left and right using the arrows. Hover over each photograph to access the text.
Larry Spring’s curatorial eye defied museum conventions. He unselfconsciously ignored shared aesthetics, mainstream knowledge, or common categorizations. Instead, Spring fashioned a cacophonous visual experience — a kind of approximation to the pre-enlightenment cabinet of wonders where art, science, and unexplained phenomena 'in between' existed in a web of visual relations.
Here Larry Spring poses with his Spring Demonstrator that he designed to demonstrate basic applied physics.
Brown, Heather. Larry Spring and the Spring Demonstrator. 2004. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Tin cans, scrap wood, and remnants from many years of television repair were transformed by Spring into his physics models.
The mark of his hand was always evident in their rough-hewn execution. While he had hoped that his models would be used in perpetuity, he did not use archival materials or resolve his projects to a high degree of finish.
Spring, Larry. Propeller. Aluminum, nails, wood, ballpoint pen, fishing line. N.d. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Spring's production was frequently self-referencing, and he would often label his works with nothing more than his name. Spring disregarded cohesive labeling because his work was to be understood through demonstration. Without his hand, the objects have been conferred with a kind of ephemeral mystery.
McKeating AM. Larry's signature demos. 2013. Jpegs. Fort Bragg, California.
The theorization in which he was most proud, was what Spring called Magnespheres. This 'breakthrough discovery' challenged accepted ideas around the shape of energy and instead proposed that energy was comprised of weightless, massless, spheres that changed size according to their function.
This table tennis ball resting in a redwood cradle represents one of the two half-length magnespheres that are required to form one full wavelength. Spring gave these models as gifts to his admirers.
Spring, Larry. Magnesphere. 1985. Table tennis ball, carved and polished redwood burl, ballpoint pen. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
McKeating AM. Table tennis Magnesphere. 2013. Jpeg.
These are four booklets from a series of eight that Spring produced using a combination of typed and hand-written text and a photocopier. Some had multiple editions as he reorganized the language in which he described his work.
Larry Spring's Spherical Electromagnetic Quantum contained this proclamation: "I, LARRY SPRING, came to the realization that certain basic physical thoughts and reactions must be revised and updated before the observed actions and reactions can be fully understood. THE ENERGY ITSELF IS MY TEACHER."
Spring, Larry. Saddle-stitched photocopied booklets. 1979-1991. The Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
McKeating AM. Larry's booklets. 2015. Jpeg.
Nothing went to waste in Spring's world, and his particular notion of bricolage extended to his filing system. He kept innumerable copies of anything that connected to his theorization in hand-labeled cardboard lids that were organized in a logic known only to himself.
McKeating AM. Odd printed material. 2013. Jpeg. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Local historian Sylvia Bartley described Spring as 'pretty far out' for most local people, and Spring's library attests to this aspect of his character. Spring subscribed to many alternative journals including the now defunct Electric Spacecraft Journal, which specialized in UFOs and alternative theories about gravity, (2015).
McKeating AM. Electric Spacecraft. 2013. Jpeg. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Here, Spring is pictured behind his motor table in the midst of a demonstration. The motors represented his experiments with solar energy and he had variations of each model.
The motors that sat in his storefront window attracted passersby with their pleasing whirring movements.
Brown, Heather. Larry at the motor table. 2009. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Spring powered his solar motors with lights he had fashioned out of pop cans. Behind them, is a cartoon drawn by Spring of a boy riding a magnesphere through space.
My Trip to the Moon
I went to the moon on a flying trapeze
I got to the moon with the greatest of ease
I just closed my eyes and sailed through the air
When I opened my eyes I found I was there
Now dear teacher, I hope you’re not sore
If I had opened my eyes, I might have seen more.
You are on a trip around the Sun
Open your eyes
By Larry Spring, 1933
McKeating AM. Spring's tin can lights and cartoon. 2013. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
In addition to his physics investigations, Spring was also a keen painter. He would often copy directly from photographs without employing light, shadow or perspective.
Spring's favourite painter was Bob Ross and he would watch Ross's television broadcasts faithfully.
This is a rare example of Spring using a three-dimensional object as a model.
Photographer unknown. Spring painting a feather with an unidentified friend. N.d. Chromatic print. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Spring was an inveterate collector of ephemera and kept extensive files of pictures clipped from magazines and calendars. He would use these clippings as references for his paintings, many of which directly related to his works.
McKeating AM. Picture file. 2015. Jpeg. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Rarely did Spring render figures, but when he did, they were glamour women from movie magazines. These paintings were not displayed in the storefront nor was the source material found.
Spring, Larry. Glamour Woman. N.d. Acrylic on canvas mounted on cardboard. Collection of Anne Maureen McKeating. Toronto, Ontario.
Spring was a passionate photographer and experimented with many popular films and formats. In his later years, he used slide film exclusively and kept all of his pictures labeled and organized in trays.
Most of his pictures were of landscapes and family, but this slide represents a rare foray into a constructed shot. During the 1960's joining a photo club was a popular way for men to photograph female models. While it is pure speculation as to whether this shot is evidence of such an activity, it does have the earmark of the chaste eroticism that was popular during the era.
Spring, Larry. Red tights. 1964. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Among boxes of long obsolete television components, a small gift box containing shards of shell, tiny carving tools and the rough beginnings of a cameo was found. It was likely carved by Larry Spring..
McKeating AM. Cameo find. 2014. Jpeg. Fort Bragg California.
Found wood was an important material for Spring. Tree roots, burl, and driftwood were his favoured materials.
Spring did a series of tree root carvings where a face would emerge from characteristics already present in the wood. It has been speculated that these carvings were self-portraits.
Spring, Larry. Carved heads in various found roots. 1981. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring.
During Spring's lifetime, his Little Woods Creatures shared his display cases with slag glass, moth-eaten bird wings, and crystals Spring had grown from hobby kits. These materials were removed after his death when their crumbling state threatened the stability of the sculptures.
When the creatures were reinstalled, they were organized to interact with some of Spring's sculptural pieces from his physics investigations.
Spring, Larry. Turned wood, little woods creatures, mixed media physics objects. 2013. Jpeg. Estate of Larry Spring.
Most of the physics pieces that now share the case with the Little Woods Creatures are unidentified. Spring did not clearly label his works, and in his writings, he often confused one thing for another. This photo is possibly a model of four magnespheres, because the materials and markings are similar to the individual models that he gave away as keepsakes.
Spring, Larry. Unidentified model. Table tennis balls, magic marker, pencil, white-out, wood, nails. N.d. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Spring experimented with mixed media dioramas. All of the materials were found including the substrate that was, at one time, a rival real estate agent's sign.
Spring, Larry. Mixed media Diorama. 1985. Paint, root, moss, found wood, sign, glue, nails. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
After Spring's death, the rock room was arranged as a separate gallery to accommodate renovations. Displayed in his hand made cases, specimens and samples were placed along with Spring's original labels and other pieces of ephemera.
Label notes include "the oldest paintings in the world were painted by mother nature millions of years ago."
McKeating AM. Rock room showing rock mineral and fossil samples, handmade cases, paintings, arrowhead collection, military paraphernalia, obsidian shard diorama. 2013. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Spring's handmade cases have backlit agate inserts that he carefully sliced and polished. His work with agate showed a high degree of finish. Perhaps this is because he belonged to a rock club where peers would mentor one another in crafting their works.
McKeating AM. Rock room showing rock, mineral and fossil samples, handmade cases, paintings, carved root heads, Pomo basket, taxidermy, shells. 2013. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
McKeating AM. Lit case showing agate inserts. 2013. Fort Bragg, California.
In 2012, Spring's Rock Dinner Party was reinstalled along with examples of his demonstration equipment. The screens that hang behind the table are devices that Spring constructed to measure 'Magnespheres'. On the far left is one of the many lamps that Spring made out of sliced agate and redwood burl. Beneath the lamp sits the field strength meter that Spring used in 1954 to measure the speed of light.
In 2014, the window was voted Fort Bragg's 'best window' by the BIA.
McKeating, AM. WIndow at night. 2012. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
The collection is currently housed in Spring’s storefront at 225 E Redwood Ave in Fort Bragg, California. It perilously operates without subsidy or revenue.
McKeating AM. Photogram. 2015. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.