• Lynne Kornecki

STC Public Library to Feature Bronze Relief by Local Sculptor, Larry Johnson, When It Reopens

Updated: Nov 6


Sculptor, Larry Johnson, is currently at work in his Geneva, IL studio recreating an enlarged version of his "Porta Passage with Architectural Detail" for the library's new reading area.


Last summer (July 2020), the St. Charles Public Library Foundation sought proposals from professional artists to complete a signature art piece for display in the library once it reopens after extensive renovations sometime in early-to mid-year 2021. The selected piece will be featured prominently above the library’s fireplace in the new, open-concept reading area on the main floor.


After reviewing submissions from 39 artists, the Foundation selected Geneva-based sculptor, Larry Johnson’s bronze relief, “Porta Passage with Architectural Detail” from his “Porta” series. However, they commissioned him to make it larger to better fill the designated space. Currently, Johnson is busily recreating its enlarged version from his Geneva, IL studio which will take roughly three months to complete.


Johnson explains his work.


“My “Porta” series deals with the classic theme of an entry, a door, a window, or a passage into a new space. The piece explores the transformation of an arch’s keystone – it’s strongest element -- into organic movement of form and content. It allows the viewer to visually enter another dimension. It’s a perfect choice for the library where new worlds and discoveries are waiting to be made.”


As an artist, Johnson has always been attracted to classical themes and the structure found in such architectural elements as an arch or the dynamics of the human form.

He discovered a passion for sculpture while in high school attending St. Bede Academy in Peru, IL. There he studied with an art teacher who had a sculpture studio, and who also became his mentor and longtime collaborator.


After graduation, Johnson went on to earn his BFA in Painting and Sculpture from Fontbonne College in St. Louis, MO. His graduate work began at the University of Chicago as a student of Virginio Ferrari, an internationally known sculptor from Verona, Italy. Later, he completed his MFA at Southern Illinois University studying with sculptor Thomas Walsh and Herbert Fink, a member of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation.


Johnson treats the clay as though he’s working on canvas -- a “painting in relief” he says -- using his hands, a stylus, and a selected clay-modeling tool. (View tools in photo below.) To keep the clay relief as plastic as possible during the hand-forming process, Johnson continually sprays it with water.


As Johnson works on his duplicate piece, he explained the many complicated steps involved before it is finished --too lengthy to detail here. However, the process includes sending wax patterns of the piece – in sections -- to the foundry for casting into bronze. Then it returns again to Johnson where he burnishes away any visible welds. He accomplishes this by grinding, sanding, buffing and lastly using acid to add a rich patina.


Once completed, the 30% larger piece will measure 52 inches high, 44 inches wide, and 2 inches deep, and will have used over 100 pounds of clay. Johnson advises that proper lighting on a relief is absolutely essential for illuminating all its detail.


When entering Johnson’s Geneva studio, visitors first step into a welcoming gallery with lighting that accentuates the beauty of both his paintings hanging on the walls and his unique sculptures which include maquettes or sketches for figurative pieces. Recent examples of his work can be viewed at Peck Farm Park (part of the Geneva Park District), Geneva Visitors Center, and Villa Benedict in Lisle, IL.


Behind the gallery lies Larry’s studio where he diligently immerses himself in many projects. His demeanor, although quiet, is also intensely passionate about his work and his explanations extremely knowledgeable. He has completed many commissioned pieces and describes working with his clients as a collaborative effort incorporating their feedback until a piece receives its final approval.


Johnson notes that the artists who continue to inspire and influence him today are: Henry Moore, Richard Hunt, Giacomo Manzu, Marino Marini; Michelangelo, Rodin and Degas.

Once Johnson’s Porta piece is in place within the newly renovated St. Charles Public Library, he hopes…


“That people will see the horizon of today’s environment, but above it -- new life, sparks of light, and hope,” he concludes.

* BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN TO SEE MORE PHOTOS *

Visit his website at: http://lkjohnsonstudio.com/; Studio/Gallery located at 409 Stevens Street, Geneva, IL 60134. Visitors welcome by appointment.

View St. Charles Public Library’s new interiors here: https://www.scpld.org/sites/default/files/2019_1009-scpl-board_presentation_boards.pdf


Closer view of the "Porta Passage with Architectural Detail". Johnson is currently recreating its enlarged version to be placed above the fireplace on the first floor reading area in the newly renovated library.


"Messenger" cast bronze and welded steel displayed in Larry's Geneva, IL gallery.


Besides his hands, Johnson uses the stylus on the left and a clay-modeling tool on the right.



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