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.
Larry Spring and the Spring Demonstrator
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. 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 beautifully evident in their rough-hewn execution.
Spring, Larry. Aluminum, nails, wood, ballpoint pen, fishing line. N.d. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
Larry's signature demonstration models
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. 2013. Jpegs. Fort Bragg, California.
Magnespheres in burl stand
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. 1985. Table tennis ball, carved and polished redwood burl, ballpoint pen. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
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. The Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Odd printed material
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. 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. 2013. Jpeg. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Spring with his solar motors
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. 2009. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Waste not, want not
Found objects and repurposed artifacts were important materials and all in line with Larry Spring’s common sense, waste not want not ethos. Fragments of things became things in their own right. For instance, reconfigured soda cans became the light source that powered his solar motors.
McKeating AM. 2013. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Spring painting a feather with an unidentified friend
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. N.d. Chromatic print. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Rarely did Spring render figures, but when he did, they were glamourous women from movie magazines.
Spring, Larry. N.d. Acrylic on canvas mounted on cardboard. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
Carved heads in various found roots
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. 1981. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
Turned wood, little woods creatures, mixed media physics objects
Spring’s Little Woods Creatures have always had a place in the storefront. They first appeared in Larry’s television showroom in the mid 1950s. They now share space with some of Spring's sculptural pieces from his physics investigations, and his turned wood objects.
Spring, Larry. 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.Table tennis balls, magic marker, pencil, white-out, wood, nails. N.d. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Louise with Rock Hounding Tools
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 and empty milk cartons. Here is Spring’s wife Louise posing with their rock hounding tools on one of their many trips to the American Southwest.
Spring, Larry. N.d. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Spring's rock collection is housed in his handmade cases have backlit agate inserts that he carefully sliced and polished. Spring would sometimes playfully name his specimens after what they resembled, rather than their scientific names.
Spring, Larry. Ash, pegboard, agate, flourescent tube. N.d. Fort Bragg, California.
Rock Dinner Party
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.
Rock Dinner Party bequeathed to Larry Spring by Virginia Haughtaling. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Mixed Media Diorama
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. 1985. Paint, root, moss, found wood, sign, glue, nails. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.