Home Magazine A conversation with Larry Hefner

Larry Hefner is a process driven artist whose works convey happiness and positivity. Read the interview to learn more!

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Larry Hefner is a multi-disciplined artist working with a variety of media and techniques. His work has been exhibited in many local and regional museums and galleries winning numerous awards. For the past forty plus years, Larry has worked as a graphic designer/photographer, owning his own studio, The Hefner Group. His background as a graphic designer influenced his works deeply. He has always been driven in the pursuit of his works by the simple abstract elements of light, color and space. 

Kooness: Tell us about your collection and exhibition “Abstract Realities”

L: The exhibition is my newest work, the majority of the pieces were created in 2023, and some of them were finished in 2024. It is the first exhibition of a new series of work. I worked for forty years on one concept and one series of work that I call the Shadow Series. This is very exciting for me as I am creating something new and it's a lot freer than I have done before. All of my work is abstract, but these new works are more expressive I can say.

K: Is there anything in particular that inspires you? Why this shift into a new series?

L: All of my work is process driven and the previous series of work have become a bit stable. I've been doing it for a long long period of time and I felt it was time for a change. When I first started my new series I didn’t really know what I was about to create, I was following the process I always follow and I knew the work was gonna be abstract, but I didn’t know what exactly was about to do. I wanted to explore more real texture, heavier texture. The previous works alluded to great depth, but it was more a trompe-l'œi effect and not the hands on kind of texture. I knew I wanted a new consistency and new color palette. So I started from there and my work grew following a process, a flow. 


Larry Hefner. Fantasy Playground 2023. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery.


K: Any piece you feel more attached to?

L: A very exciting piece, which is one of the latest I create, is called “Fantasy PlayGround”, it's a mix media on panel. It is abstract, but it has a hopeful and fantasy feel . There are shapes and images that occur throughout that add to the theme of the artwork. I want my artworks to challenge the audience visually and intellectually. I want the audience to come away with a hopeful feeling, an optimistic one. For this reason colors are very important in my works, I tend to use bright ones and use a playful approach.

K: Tell me about your story and how your artistic expression changed through the years

L: I have always worked with the same abstract philosophies: colors and balance, the basic elements of art. So, even though my works changed through the years, in the past they were very representational, showing images and objects, but I was still thinking of them in an abstract way. As I mentioned before I am a very process driven artist, I start from the very beginning. The choice of the canva is part of the process. I stretch my canva, prepare my panel and use the prime. When I start to apply paint, even in the pre-painting part where I am sketching the composition, that leads to the next step and each step combines into one finished piece. The process for me is key, and it is important to carry it through the piece.


Larry Hefner. 1961 Cool Leisure Suit, 2023. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery.


K: What personality trait would you associate with your works?

L: I want to be very optimistic and show optimism and positivity through my works.

K: You also use letters in your pieces, why so?

L: I have a background in Graphic Design. I was the department chair of the department of Design in the University of Oklahoma. The design industry has been a huge part of my life. Fonts, type and type treatment are very important in that field, so I did a series of the alphabet (all 26 characters). The concept was to create a design element for painting using a font that started with the letters that I was working with. For instance, H would stand for Helvetica and F for Futura. The audience doesn't associate the letters with typography, but with an image whose name starts with that letter. M for Marriage for example, and this is very interesting. It has been a very interesting project. 

The colors are brighter in the alphabet series and it gives the works more personality.

K: How does your background influence your art?

L: Immensely. I started in college as a fine artist. I got my MFA in painting, but I also got my undergrad degree in printmaking so there is a lot of printmaking that influences my works. All the knowledge in my brain I acquire throughout my career influences the choices my brain makes while creating. My life learning has made me. 

K: What role does the audience play in your works?

L: The audience is very important to me. Feedbacks are always a good thing, as long as you are open to hearing them. I hope they are getting a lot of views of my works. 


Larry Hefner. Times, 2023. Courtesy of Lincoln Gallery.


K: Can you describe your artwork “Times”?

L: This piece is actually T/Time. It is the T of the alphabet and Time is font. For me it is very important also if I know it is not revealing much to the audience. It's there for me and for my former students practicing Graphic Design. That was my concept. I think what is important is the composition created using that letter T. The name is simply what it is and I hope people would be delighted when they look at it. The elements interplay with each other, the color combination is very important and the forms used as well. Talking about my artist process and the mediums I use, most of my pieces are acrylics. As I mentioned before I am working for a heavy texture, but if you look at some of the larger pieces, there are fundamental shapes, like circles and squares. These elements are raised on the surface of the canva. I start from primer and gesso, I use a template called peg board, it's a storage hardboard panel with holes. I squeeze the modeling paste on the peg board on the canva, and from there I make my  template as a base for my works. I work with layers for the background colors and the elements to construct my work. I build the surface this way.

Cover image: Larry Hefner. Abstract Reality Exhibition. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery

Written by Asia Artom

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