My name is Larry P. Strang. I am 60 years old. When I was 32 years old, I was sent to a federal prison in 1992 for armed bank robbery. My sentence was for 322 months for which I did 24.5 years. The last 13 years is when I started drawing and created my art.
In December 2002, I had a vision in the one-man room I had lived in for two years. In this vision I was in hell. I felt in that vision I was going to die. I called for Jesus Christ to save me. He came to rescue me. I woke up at 3:00am covered with sweat, too scared to go back to sleep. I told my best friend who lived down the hallway at FMC Lexington prison.
Fast forward two months, February 2003, I had a second vision during the night. In this one, a nun-looking woman, came through a doorway in my dream & asked me how I liked the dream/vision. I told her I liked the desert town I was in during the conversation with her. I said, “Yes, I like putting my toes into the Texan dust puddles that form after a long time without rain.” She said, “No, not this dream, the dream when you called my Son’s name.” This was a reference to the other vision. She said, “You were supposed to die in hell, but you called my Son’s name.” “Yes, I did,” I said. She then asked me how my drawing skills were. I said, “I don’t have any drawing skills!” She just chuckled and said, “It’s your destiny.” She then turned to leave and stopped, she said, “Help the children” and I said, “What children?” She said, “You will know when the time is right.” The whole entire time spent with her in the vision, I could smell roses. She then glided back out through the doorway in the dream and I woke at 3:00am again. I told my best friend all about this vision, as well, and he told me that it was considered a “miracle” to see and/or speak with the Mother Mary. So that very same day I started to teach myself how to draw. I used all my Christmas money people would send me and I would buy art supplies. I had to keep everything I owned in a very small double door locker, so my art size was 19″ x 11″ so it would fit. I felt something within me, compel me, push me through all this frustration of learning how to draw when all I wanted to do was tear up each page & throw it away! My art started out on white paper, but I turned to the black cotton paper after about a year. I figure there is close to 1000 drawings and I have them all except 2 that I gave to my best friend, and one that I gave to my old boss at the prison, B.T. Miller. Along with these 1000 or so drawings, I also made some stainless steel jewelry pieces in the machine shop, and wrote and illustrated a children’s book, called “The World Of Arbor; New Friends.”
I spoke to eleven different psychology interns while I was at FMC Lexington. One of the interns, a cute short haired blond, who was fascinated that I taught myself how to draw & was also very interested in both my visions, asked me if it was o.k. to take some of my art to an important psychology meeting that was coming up in the prison. I told her, “Sure.” She showed them around 30 drawings and she came back and told me that my art absolutely blew them away. They all thought that it would be a bunch of chicken scratches. However, they were truly fascinated to see the art before them that I had drawn with paper and colored pencil.
I have about 500 drawings on my website, ArtbyLarryStrang.com, I call them my “Boring Art/Pretty Art”…the other 500 or so are the other drawings that I don’t feel are worth showing. I call them my “Crazy Art.” I made protective boxes out of cardboard, especially made to size for these pieces, 50-100 drawings that I would send out to my sister’s home in Ohio where she could store them for me. I did this to protect them from the theft in the prison. Over the years, she stored almost all of my 1000 drawings. I only drew on weekends and holidays…why, you might ask? Because, I needed at least 6 hours or more to devote to a drawing. Since I never went out into “The Yard”, I stayed in my room or I was at my job as a machinist. I would take my vacations in my one-man room and draw. I was basically a hermit…and everyone said my art looked weird.
When I was released from prison in January, 2015, I had to enter a half-way house for one year in Toledo, Ohio. I had to quit drawing because I had been out of society for 24.5 years & I had to re-learn everything. I knew my priorities and they were, I needed to get a job, find a place to live, buy a car, and I knew I needed to learn how to use a cell phone and a computer. This was very difficult for me…all I wanted to do was my crazy art. It started to feel like no matter how “normal” my life started to become with my job, my apartment, my life, my everything, that seems like nothing but normal to everyone else, all I wanted was to still just do my art…..everyday…EVERY SINGLE DAY! I still struggle with the intensity of the frustration to NOT just stop everything I NEED to do, like working every day, paying my bills, taking care of myself, & just turn my focus to drawing art, day after day…unfortunately, I don’t have the money, or the time to be able to follow that dream.
All of my drawings are still in my custom-made boxes that they were mailed to my sister’s in. THEY are STILL in prison! My drawings need to be shown, to be contemplated! My story needs to be told, so both my drawings and my soul can truly be free, at last!
I would really like the world to see my art and to hear my story about how it came to be. I would like the chance to talk with folks about my art process and my life & be able to fully answer questions they may have. In doing my homework on Outsider Artists, many of them are already deceased. I am not…I am alive! So many of my emotions are wrapped up in this art…love, anger, frustration, sadness, joy, loneliness, despair, & the feeling of never being good enough to ever truly fit back into society again. My worst fears were being homeless and never ever being loved.
How do you think my story should end, sir? Should my art stay in prison, my soul, as well? You tell me….
Thank you, in advance, for your time & for your love and devotion to Outsider Art & Artists, like me ….
Larry P. Strang