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January 5, 2013

Swope embraces ‘Year of the River’

TERRE HAUTE — Colors flow across the walls of the Swope Art Museum in keeping with this year’s grand theme.

The work of Evansville artist Ralph Larmann kicks off “2013 Year of the River” inside the museum’s education gallery. Opened Friday evening with presentations and explanations, the exhibit “Paradoxical Currents” runs through March 23.

Larmann, an associate professor of art at the University of Evansville, said that evening his participation in the city-wide celebration of the Wabash River is quite an honor. In addition to studio work, Larmann has co-authored “Gateways to Art” and won the Howard E. Wooden Memorial Grand Prize, as well as the Indiana State University Permanent Collection Purchase Award for his painting “Coalopolis.”

“It looks great. Everybody has been wonderful,” he said shortly before the first of two explanatory sessions that evening.

The 13-piece collection on display contains works created between 1993 and 2012, all somehow related to the ideas inspired by rivers.

“My work is story-oriented,” he said, describing the paintings as narratives in which he’s the facilitator.

Drawn from his own memories and inspirations, he incorporates a “visual vocabulary” in weaving a tale which unfolds inside the viewer’s mind.

“Each individual picture is a story, or a group of stories,” he said, pointing out individuals can interpret those any way they choose.

Stories and rivers have in common that they can be shared by many people, and when amid them, one sees both past and future while in the present.

“So the river really exemplifies the story,” he said. “And change. The river is always a symbol of change.”

Larmann described his style as a vibrant one which incorporates underlying themes of dynamic rhythms and energy in colors which mimic the “American Regionals.”

Swope collections manager Jenna Lanaman said the work is enjoyable to view.

“I really like his color work. He doesn’t use muted colors. They’re clean and vibrant and they convey a lot of emotions,” she said.

Curator Lisa Petrulis said she first encountered Larmann’s work through juried exhibitions and found it dynamic and interesting. In addition to paintings about the coal industry, much of his work focuses on the river and so she invited him to participate.

“I thought it was a perfect fit,” she said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or


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