Monday, August 15, 2016

My short Biography


I have traveled  and have lived in many unique places. I  lived on Nantucket Island, Hong Kong, Illinois, Alaska, Minnesota, and Florida. My wanderlust was a result of a life-changing accident. It is amazing how actions early in life can create a chain of events that  forever change ones life directions. My life has been a series of these events.

I grew up in a beautiful coastal town in Massachusetts. As a young child I struggled with school. I had dyslexia before it was known as a condition and, of course, I had attention problems. I went to Catholic school and was subjected to my share of abuse. Needless to say I did not like school. Not all of the Nuns were horrible though. I had one teacher who understood that I was a bit creative and allowed be to use modeling clay during reading and math class, I fashioned animals with the clay and it helped me focus, I actually looked forward to class. 
my scrimshaw in early 1980s


I used to volunteer at Cardinal Cushing School for Exceptional Children in Hanover MA as a teenager. This is a unique place in the 1970s because it nurtured developmentally delayed children. It was a wonderful experience. When I was sixteen I broke my neck when I dove into the shallow pool at the Cushing School. As awful as the accident was, I would physically recover but that event had changed my life.
My Brother and I with Cardinal Cushing in the late 1950s

About a month before the accident my mother had bought me a Scrimshaw Kit during a vacation on Nantucket Island, MA. Believe it or not, that little kit did change my life. I had always loved to draw and the scrimshaw was a wonderful distraction during and after my recovery.  It also proved to be important latter in my career. Through scrimshaw I learned patience, drawing skills, it improved my self-esteem, and it would also allow me to pay my way through college. When I was 18 my parents allowed me to spend the summer on Nantucket where I scrimshawed and took commissions. I was one of the youngest persons doing scrimshaw in the country and my work was featured in a couple books on scrimshaw.
1976 Leslie Linsley book Scrimshaw, I was one of the featured artists
I continued to summer on Nantucket all through the remainder of High School and throughout College and sold my scrimshaw. My brother joined me and he also did scrimshaw. He is now an artist on Nantucket and owns his own gallery.
Micheal (left) and I doing scrimshaw on Nantucket late 1970s


Despite My rocky high school years I went to college and I received my BFA from Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMASS Dartmouth). My first year in a half as a Graphic Design student was a disaster. I did not know that I was still dealing with depression due to my neck injury and my grades were atrocious.  I found a love for painting and photography, my Junior and Senior years I really excelled.
1980 with a beer and Frank Zappa

I took a year off after undergraduate before heading to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where I earned a MFA in Painting /Printmaking. For the first year at SIU my thesis work was in limbo. Then one day a scrimshaw shop open up in this Midwestern town!!. I wandered in to have a look and the owner actually knew who I was. He had the Lesley Linsley  Scrimshaw book!
He wanted my artwork and offered me a trade for an amazing collection of Alaskan Native Ivories as payment, some of which were over 2000 year old. Because of my interest in my own Native American ancestry and these magnificent Alaskan Ivories, I did my thesis on Native Alaskan Art and used the artifacts as models for large scale paintings and prints. The chain of events continues…..


Unlike most MFAs, I decided NOT to apply for any teaching jobs immediately after graduate school. I wanted some life experience and told myself that I would not apply for any college positions until I was 35 years old. I moved back to Nantucket and proceeded to become a starving artist. I did teach some classes at Nantucket Artists Association and painted houses in the winter but most of my income came from selling art work. In 1986 I met a witty, cute, and wonderful young woman.
She was so interesting, a Chinese woman with an English accent and had brains to match her looks. She was working only for the summer but was headed to Hong Kong that fall.  Needless to say I followed her to Hong Kong and we were married the next year.  We lived in Hong Kong for a year before returning to the USA. We lived outside Boston for about two year. I taught at Bridgewater State College and she wrote for newspapers. The chain of events continues…..


Now, this is where the chain of event really gets strange. I applied for a one year teaching position at the University of Alaska. I knew that my interest in Alaska would be an asset so I applied. I got the position because of my knowledge of Alaska Native culture, and my knowledge of ivory and scrimshaw! I eventually was hired permanently and promoted to Associate Professor. In Alaska I was in my element. The land was wild and the people were too. I made some of the most important friendship of my entire life there. It was a remarkable experience.
Master painter Philip Pearlstein and I at University of Alaska Fairbanks
My first child was born there in 1997. Unfortunately, there were limited opportunities for my wife. As a TV producer and film maker, Alaska had very limited options for her career so, kicking and screaming, I left Alaska so that my wife could further her career.


We arrived in Minnesota in 2001. My wife was hired by Minnesota Public Television. In February we were blessed with our second child, a sweet little girl. I began teaching at a number of schools. It has been a huge adjustment but I am sure that we are the only people to move to Minnesota because the winters are warm!


In 2006 I interviewed for a teaching position in Florida. The week prior to the interview I bought a brand new snow blower…. I got the job. So after selling my brand new snow blower we moved to Florida.

So that is where this chain of events has taken me. I have adapted to the warm climate, I love my students. My kids are happy and growing and my wife has a challenging job.

So when people ask me why I moved to Florida, I usually say “I once dove into a shallow pool…….”

Larry Vienneau

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