VIDEO: Larry Spring described in a sampling of observations.
POSITIONING LARRY SPRING
How does one imagine, pattern, represent or consider another?
Is it possible to come to an understanding about a life through a place, the memory of others, the making of things, and an accumulation of objects?
What is this…?
It is an act of biographical reconstruction — a glance toward alternative beliefs, a tangling of place and identity, an arrangement of what existed and what remains.
So, here is an idea of Larry Spring — the who of him as refigured through a small act of curation.
WHO IS LARRY SPRING?
Lorenz 'Larry' Spring (1915-2009) was a freethinker who challenged mainstream ways of knowing through his tenacious, idiosyncratic learning and teaching style. A life-long resident of California's Mendocino coast, Spring was uniquely inspired by the area's biophysical environment, and expressed himself in painting, woodworking and assemblage. He was an enthusiastic arborist, a self-declared expert in longevity, and entirely self-taught.
He was a vernacular Renaissance man.
Spring identified first and foremost as an ‘experimenter’ who surveyed the world through empirical observation. Experiments in applied physics were his specialty, and he aspired to make visible the complex phenomena described by standardized science. Spring idealized knowledge through making and dismissed the theoretical musings of Einstein as the 'stuff of dreamers'.
Larry Spring's School of Common Sense Physics in Fort Bragg, California, was where he shared these personalized studies through craft-making, the construction of hand-hewn demonstration models, and publications. He worked tirelessly until his death at age 94 to find acceptance for his primary discoveries Magnespheres and the Spring Atom.
GALLERY: A selection of photographs that provides a brief biography of Larry Spring.
Navigate left and right using the arrows. Hover over each photograph to access the text.
Larry Spring was born Lorenz Niels Spring on December 6th, 1915, in Oakland, California, to Danish immigrants Sidney Reed Spring, a railway mail clerk, and Marie Katherine Lund.
Larry Spring is pictured in the middle, between his sister Mary on the left and older brother Sid on the right.
Photographer unknown. Spring siblings. Circa 1920. Gelatin silver prints on card. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
In 1919, Larry Spring's family purchased a stump ranch in Comptche, an isolated community southeast of Fort Bragg. Sold to economic refugees as cheap plots, stump ranches required heavy labour to eliminate the remains of felled trees in order to make the land arable.
Photographer unknown. Stump. Circa 1920. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
Larry Spring's complex frugality and regard for self-reliance was related to his hardscrabble experience on the ranch.
Larry Spring and his siblings. From the left, siblings Mary, Joe, Larry and Sid Spring.
Photographer unknown. Spring siblings with chickens. Circa 1921. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
Long-time friend Bill Roach recalled, "Larry was very frugal and we would see that expressed in ways like... his pants were held together with rope or you would walk down the beach with him and he would come back with a lot of things that you would think are trash. But he saw something of value in everything. He never threw anything away. Frugality was embedded in him," (2015).
McKeating, AM. Larry Spring's hand repair. Jpeg. 2015. Shirt from the estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
When he was a boy, Larry Spring built crystal radios from oatmeal boxes, wound wires, crystals, and cat whiskers so that he could receive programming from San Francisco. Available materials continued to be his preference throughout his adulthood.
Ten-year-old Larry Spring stands in the top row, third from the right in this mirthful class portrait.
Photographer unknown. Class picture. 1925. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
In 1939, Larry Spring attended The Golden Gate Exposition at the purpose-built Treasure Island where the 'wonders of chemistry, physics and biology' were displayed.
The pavilion, 'Science and Service to Man' allowed visitors to smash atoms using a miniature cyclotron. It was there that Spring first encountered closed television transmission.
Spring, Larry. Court of Pacifica. 1939. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
Inspired by the Golden Gate Exposition, Larry Spring delved into popular physics texts, peppering all with note cards and marginalia.
His primary text was the 1940 edition of Classical and Modern Physics by Harvey E. White.
McKeating, AM. Partial view of Spring's vast Library. Jpeg. 2015. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Spring became a pilot in WWll. While piloting troops and cargo between Tripoli, Cairo, and Casablanca, he managed to find a way to conduct self-styled inquiries. Spring was fascinated with wind resistance and would rig handmade contraptions to his pilot side window to observe them in action.
I tested streamlining to determine air drag and among the rest,
At 180 miles an hour winds a teardrop shape was the best,
A parachute shape had the most resistance of course,
The ratio turned out to be 10 to 1 which was good for jet engines to apply force.
- Poem by Larry Spring
Military business card. N.d. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Spring's wartime assignment was the last time that he worked for anyone other than himself.
Photographer unknown. Spring holding toy plane. Circa 1943. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
During the war, it was soldiers rather than civilians who had ready access to cameras and film. Amateur views from abroad were mainly through the eyes of soldiers.
Larry Spring filled multiple albums with photos of his experience of North Africa.
Spring, Larry. Aerial view of the pyramids at Giza. Circa 1945. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
Larry Spring had a keen eye for a compositional challenge. Here, he finely balanced the geometric and picturesque qualities of this Cairo scene.
Spring, Larry. Cairo scene. Circa 1945. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
As early as the 1880's, studio portraiture for and by North Africans was a popular way to explore self-representation and resist the colonial gaze.
Here, Larry Spring posed confidently with an unknown woman unaware of how the distorting lens of orientalism would change over time.
Photographer unknown. Spring dressed as soldier and citizen. Circa 1945. Gelatin silver prints in a leather album. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
After the war, Larry Spring found a way to organize his life around his interests by owning and operating an independent business.
Spring, Larry. Zenith. 1950. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
Larry Spring opened the first — and only — television and antennae sales and service shop in a storefront in Fort Bragg. This gave him the material and conceptual space in which to pursue his individualized learning.
Photographer unknown. Larry Spring Zenith. N.d. Chromatic print. Estate of Larry Spring.
In 1954, Larry Spring claimed to have measured the speed of light using his television repair equipment. Here, he is pictured reenacting the event.
Brown, Heather. N.d. Jpeg. Spring with two dipole antennas and a field strength meter. Courtesy of Heather Brown.
Larry Spring started to experiment with the construction of three-dimensional models. Pictured is a portable model of Shepard's moons that he made with magnets, metal sheeting, and redwood.
Spring also claimed to have simplified the periodic table as only he could.
Photographer unknown. Shepard Moon. Circa 1959. Chromatic print. Estate of Larry Spring. California.
Larry Spring was known to unselfconsciously share his alternative insights with his mainstream television clients.
Photographer unknown. Larry Spring loves Zenith T.V. N.d. Chromogenic print. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Spring had a keen eye for branding. Nowhere was this more apparent than in his storefront, employee uniforms, publications and objects emblazoned with his name.
Spring, Larry. Delivery. Circa 1967. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
In tandem with his work as a self-defined experimenter, Larry Spring was a prolific crafter. His popular Little Woods Creatures were fashioned from beach and forest detritus. These works became an intrinsic component of Spring's domestic and work space.
Spring, Larry. Creatures at home. Circa 1960. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
By the early 60's, Larry Spring's objects and creative output co-existed in his television shop along with his professional goods and services.
Spring, Larry. Creatures in the storefront. Circa 1961. B/W Polaroid print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
Spring, Larry. Self-published pamphlet. N.d. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Spring, who lived to age 94, was obsessed with longevity. He researched and shared what he believed to be the health benefits of apple cider, spring water, puréed fish heads, and persimmons.
Spring's nephew Bryant Bischoff, described this hand-hewn apple press as a 'Willy Wonka' machine. "He conveyed these apples up the ramp on a conveyor belt and it would make twists and turns and at the end, you would come out with eight peeled, cored and split apples," (2015).
Spring, Larry. 1964. Apple cider press at Comptche Ranch. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring, Comptche, California.
Larry Spring was a savvy entrepreneur. After serving as a juror on a real estate trial, Spring decided to shift his professional focus from television to real estate.
This vested him with a new kind of economic power in Fort Bragg's socio-cultural landscape and ultimately financed his alternative collecting and curating practices.
Spring Realty business card. N.d. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Property ownership and transfer allowed Larry Spring to build a substantial portfolio of assets — yet he showed little evidence of his material success. Spring continued to mend his own clothes, draw water from a horse spring in Comptche, and make building repairs with available materials. While he was known to be incredibly generous, anecdotal evidence also suggested that he squirrelled money away in his storefront's nooks and crannies.
Spring, Larry. Biagi Ranch property Fort Bragg. 1967. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
While Larry Spring was frugal in many respects, he did not deny himself experiences. During the 1970's, he made a number of trips across California and the American Southwest to rock hound.
Spring would playfully eschew traditional rock and mineral classifications and would instead label his specimens with the names of the objects they resembled. A sign in his fossil cabinet encouraged the viewer to 'make up their own story'.
Photographer unknown. Rock Hound. 1973. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Spring installed what he called the Rock Dinner Party in the window of his shop. It featured six different dinners complete with drinks and dessert; all comprised of rocks.
Photographer unknown. View of Rock Dinner Party from inside the shop. 1989 Colour photocopy. Rock Dinner Party bequeathed to Larry Spring by Virginia Haughtaling. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
In retirement, Larry Spring made the dissemination of his alternative ideas into his full-time vocation. He converted the storefront into an informal school. This venue gave him another way to challenge accepted ideas through teaching.
McKeating, AM. Magnespheres Teaching Chart. 2014. Jpeg. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Experimentation, observation, and verification were Spring's core beliefs. For him, theoretical physics was a network of guesses that could not compare to his common sense mantra, "Let the Energy be Your Teacher."
Spring made demonstration models from available materials as observable 'common sense' methods of understanding the transfer of energy.
Pictured are Larry Spring's notes correcting established theory and the models of 'Magnespheres' that he constructed from table tennis balls and redwood burl.
McKeating, AM. Magnespheres and notes. 2014. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Spring found a receptive audience at the Fort Bragg Seniors' Center where his talks were recorded and shown on local cable T.V. Here, he is demonstrating how to measure the size, structure and polarity of a 'Magnesphere' using a toy ball and one of a series of screens that he specifically designed for this purpose.
Videographer unknown. Larry Spring measuring a Magnesphere. N.d. Screen capture of VHS tape. Estate of Larry Spring. California.
Larry Spring's nephew, Bryant Bischoff, recalled that Larry would give lengthy demonstrations in the homes of friends and family. Larry's wife, Louise, would often act as his assistant during his demonstrations, (2015).
Photographer unknown. Larry and Louise Spring with Magnesphere and custom screen. N.d. Chromogenic print. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
While Larry Spring expressed disdain for peer-reviewed science, his archive suggests that he wanted to advance his theories into the mainstream. Here is a small selection of the many letters from libraries and universities thanking him for his book donations and non-conforming perspectives on the shape and behaviour of energy.
McKeating, AM. Institutional correspondence. 2015. Jpeg. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Alternative organizations like Borderland Sciences and the Tesla Society offered Larry Spring a publication forum for his theorizations. These organizations tend to attract mavericks that identify themselves as on the vanguard of discovery.
Pictured is an illustration by Larry Spring depicting his worldview. Spring would eventually fashion copies of the illustration into laminated placemats for sale.
Spring, Larry. Peer Review is Not For You. 1992. Ink on paper. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Spring conducted common sense physics classes in his Fort Bragg storefront, which he renamed the Larry Spring School of Common Sense Physics.
Despite his advanced age, lectures could run for as long as 3 hours. If he was interrupted, he would start the lecture again.
Brown, Heather. Larry teaching a common sense physics class. 2004. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California
Larry Spring was undeterred by his critics. It was Spring's desire that he be studied after his death, with the caveat that his work was to remain intact.
"I was always kind of hoping that there would be a big announcement that some old guy in Fort Bragg finally figured out what all the brainiacs of the world couldn't," (Bryant Bischoff 2015).
Brown, Heather. Larry at the reflection table. 2004. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California