Sally Larsen: The German Eye in America (and other projects)


Please click on the link below for an illustrative music video showing Sally Larsen at work in her studio.


San Francisco based artist Sally Larsen is currently compiling a collection of German photography of the indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America, known as The German Eye In America, which she intends to be as exhaustive as possible and to explore cultural attitudes towards native people.

“We’re getting everyone, literally – since the invention of the camera. Famous or not, in order to determine how the Germans viewed Native Americans through the lens of photography,” said Larsen.

Larsen discovered her focus on the Germans organically through observation: she examined various books of photographs, both historical and contemporary, and continually encountered Germans. To her, the Germans of past and present were relatively respectful of the natives and did not merely exoticize them or intentionally pose them in primitive situations as Europeans of the time might have expected. The indigenous people in German pictures often reflect and convey dignity and inspire curiosity about their lifestyles, and Larsen speculates this may stem from aspects of literary Romanticism present within old and new German culture and aesthetics.

Larsen also pursues other artistic endeavours through a variety of media – painting, writing, video creation, and photography. She lists off quite a variety of personal and professional interests: “Japanese culture [Japlish, Pomegranate 1993], Chinese martial arts, European art and architecture, San Francisco, California water, New York City, DNA, entheogens, asian poetry, and Native America.” 

Each day’s changing circumstances, moods, and climate suggest which art form and project she will work on that day.

“Some days present themselves as painting days, others demand a camera. There are orotone days, and there are digital c print days. I envision an endpoint and proceed. There are guitar days, synthesizer days, computer days, travel days, and people days.”

She feels her blood – her way of thinking and living in the world as a gift and heritage from her ancestors – ties together her various projects.

Larsen says, “I’m mixed, part Apache, part Aleutic, part Norwegian. I appreciate diversity and I cultivate dimensionality. For instance, my Native American blood inclines me to consider Asian values. It is a consequence of my DNA.

To Larsen, art comes through a variety of forms, and a great craftsperson should not have an overly narrow focus.

“Nor is this only about how I feel. The impetus to master multiple expressions has long been part and parcel of being a serious artist. Leonardo da Vinci asserted ‘But since we know that painting embraces and contains within itself all things produced by nature or whatever results from man’s passing actions – and everything that can be taken in by the eyes – he seems to me to be a pitiful master who can only do one thing well.”

Larsen’s preferred artistic media provides another source of thematic unity. As she explains, “The continuity lies in my employment of photography. What I do with photographs can vary. One expression may be sculptural, another a paper print, another virtual.”
Technology also facilitates Larsen’s various creative projects and enables her to cross and combine media in ways never before possible. Computers, photo editing software, and online communication are invaluable to her current project, and she has employed advanced technology since the beginning of her artistic career.
“The German Eye in America, my current work in progress, employs multiple layers: It is centered around photographers and photography books yet would not be possible to realize without the Internet, email, Google and ABE. This multi-media attitude allowed me to produce digitally compiled and digitally printed work for exhibition in the late 1980s: That was the Iris inkjet Transformer print series. “
Technology also suggests and provides opportunities for Larsen’s future artistic innovations. Speculating on her latest projects, she describes the contributions of digital software.
“More recently, the expressive potential of digital tools has allowed me to meld my images with my own music. These become DVDs and motion graphic projections like Surf Trip, The Folsom Street Fair 1999, The Big Bang, and Water, a Word Worth 1000 Pictures. Put it all together and you have the density of our times. You have the layered look of tomorrow.”
Sally Larsen may be reached through her website at