OKLAHOMA CITY — Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen was named the 2006 Oklahoman of the Year by “Oklahoma Today” magazine. Larsen, who lives and works in Perkins, is the 15th Oklahoman of the Year since 1992.

The year 2006 has been a landmark one for the 62-year-old artist. In September, one of his paintings was selected to adorn the USPS Oklahoma Centennial thirty-nine-cent postage stamp. Also in September, he completed twenty-four portraits of Chickasaw elders, which will be displayed at the Chickasaw Cultural Center near Sulphur in fall 2007. During September and October, Larsen worked on two larger-than-life Centennial sculptures for the Oklahoma City Civic Center. In spring 2006, he also was named the Red Earth Honored One. The January/February 2007 issue of Oklahoma Today will feature an article about Larsen.

“Mike Larsen is a perfect choice for the 2006 Oklahoman of the Year,” says McCune-Elmore. “He has had a remarkable career for more than forty years, and I think 2006 has been one of his best years. As an artist and as an Oklahoman, he has displayed all of the admirable qualities befitting an Oklahoman of the Year. He is hard-working, spending long hours on his projects and thoroughly researching his subjects. His paintings show an uncanny ability to capture the emotions of the people he paints. More than an amazing artist, Mike Larsen is an exceptional human being. He is modest about his accomplishments and respectful to everyone he encounters.”

The Oklahoman of the Year award was first given in 1992 to Garth Brooks. The annual award is given to an Oklahoman or group of Oklahomans who have achieved excellence in their field of work during the previous year.

Over the years, recipients have included Dennis Byrd, Larry Jones, the Oklahoma City Fire Department, Shannon Miller and Shannon Lucid, Hanson, David Boren, the University of Oklahoma football team, Joe Allbaugh, the makers of the Capitol Dome, Toby Keith, Fern Holland, and Carrie Underwood. In 1999, Will Rogers was selected as the Oklahoman of the Century.Oklahoma Today, a part of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, is the official magazine of Oklahoma. The magazine is publishing eight consecutive commemorative Centennial issues; the January/February issue is the third in that series. To subscribe, call Oklahoma Today at (800) 777-1793 or visit the magazine online at oklahomatoday.com.

 

 

Mike Larsen Biography (from the artist’s website, larsenstudio.com)

 

      Researching the history of the people he paints and sculpts, Mike Larsen spends much of his studio time in books. Accuracy in regalia and dress tell much about his subjects. For more than forty years, he has worked as a full-time artist. Born in 1944 of Chickasaw heritage, Larsen grew up in farming communities in Oklahoma and Texas. Beginning at Amarillo Junior College, continuing at the University of Houston, and concluding at the prestigious Arts Student League in New York City, Larsen studied traditional art disciplines.

 

      Larsen is well known for his use of exaggerated hand size. Though this trademark began accidentally and without planning, he has carried it forward and it is one way to quickly identify a Larsen painting.

 

      Starting his career doing street fairs, he rapidly progressed to nationally known art festivals. That phase ended in the early 1990s and for the past fifteen years he has been represented by galleries across the United States. Larsen spends most of his time creating paintings and sculpture commissioned by governments, corporations, and individuals.

 

      Larsen’s love for painting and sculpting dancing figures began when he was commissioned by the State of Oklahoma to paint a twenty-six-foot-long mural for the Capitol Rotunda of five internationally prominent ballet dancers, all born in the state. He has been honored to paint eight murals—four about teaching the arts and four about local Native American History—for the Oklahoma Art Institute and six murals for the University of Oklahoma Reynolds Performing Art Center and School of Dance.

 

      Recently Larsen was chosen by the United States Postal Service to create a postage stamp commemorating Oklahoma’s centennial. He has also been commissioned by the Oklahoma Centennial Commission to create two larger-than-life size bronze statues symbolizing the arts in Oklahoma. Both will be placed at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall and will be available in maquette size to individual collectors.

 

      Last year brought the opportunity to paint Living Elders of the Chickasaw Nation - members of Larsen’s own tribe. What started as a “project” turned into a labor of love for Larsen and wife Martha as they have been given the opportunity to interview elders of Mike’s tribe, make a photographic and audio study of them, and portray these newfound friends in “family” portraits. True to Larsen’s nature, this has become both a tutorial in history and painterly scholarship.

 

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