Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1937, Larsen grew up in the resort community of South Haven, Michigan, on the south end of Lake Michigan. As a child she learned about the “construction” of the land from an uncle who was a glacial geologist. She also drew at an early age, mentored in part by her grandmother who praised and posted her drawings.
Graduating magna cum laude with her BA from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Larsen went on to study art at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and at Hope College, Holland, Michigan. At the height of a successful art career in Michigan, in 1980, Larsen followed the sun to New Mexico with her then-husband abstractionist Hal Larsen. Their son Ted Larsen is also a painter and sculptor.
Larsen says that her paintings are metaphors of her reaction to New Mexico’s geological grandeur and vibrant cultures. “I am inspired by the way the environment makes me feel,” she says. “So, while I reference actual buildings and landscapes, my paintings are what I call ‘self talk.’ They are intensely personal dialogues between my perceptions and conception, between colors I see and colors that express my bliss.”
“Paintings are not windows onto the world, they are reflections of who you are,” she explains. “That’s why I started carving and painting my frames more than twenty years ago—the frame is an extension of my cockeyed optimism in this magical place.” Inspired by travels to Mexico and by the carved and painted vigas she saw in Santa Fe’s St. Francis Auditorium, Larsen designs and paints each frame to complement the painting. “The frame also reasserts that the painting is an object as opposed to a representation,” she says.
Larsen is a highly successful artist, teacher, and international juror. She has received awards in major national shows including AWS, NWS, Watercolor USA, Rocky Mountain National, and San Diego International.