Fifty years after graduating from the University of Florida, Robert Fichter and Mernet Larsen find themselves side by side again.
The two alumni earned their bachelor degrees from the UF School of Art and History, and their works are currently being featured in the “Class of (circa) ’65” exhibition at the University Gallery.
For the final exhibit of the gallery’s 50th anniversary year, Fichter’s photographs and Larsen’s paintings are displayed side by side. The exhibition opened Tuesday and will last through Dec. 4.
“I love the idea of having a show with Robert,” Larsen said. “He’s a wonderful artist and person.”
Both moved to Gainesville at a young age. The two attended Sunday school together, graduated from P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, earned bachelor’s degrees in fine arts from UF and master’s degrees in fine arts from Indiana University.
The artists worked together on their high school yearbook and at UF’s student literary magazine, Scope. They also studied with the gallery’s founding director, the late Roy Craven.
“This whole thing is about celebrating Roy Craven’s life,” Fichter, 75, said.
Fitcher said the gallery thought it would be interesting to invite him back after all these years because of his connection to Craven. His work explores the human condition.
He observes what’s happening around him and constructs a story out of it.
One of Fichter’s pieces features a giant red bear; a deer with a skeleton hanging on its antlers stands to the bear’s left, and a large bird lies above the bear’s head.
“It’s a collage aesthetic,” he said.
Fichter photographed “Nature Return” during Ronald Reagan’s 1984 U.S. presidential campaign. He said one of Reagan’s ads portrayed the Russians as a bear. He decided to make it a red bear. He said his work almost always has some kind of warning to humanity.
“There’s a lot of bizarreness behind it,” he said.
Larsen’s acrylic painting, “Misstep,” shares a wall with Fichter’s “Nature Return” at the gallery.
“Misstep” shows a man wearing blue jeans falling off of a cliff and a woman in orange standing behind him, just on the edge of the cliff. The bottom right of the painting reveals three men climbing a hill toward a post.
“A lot of your unconscious comes into play,” she said.
Larsen worked on “Misstep” during an especially ambitious summer, which she said explained the men walking uphill toward the post — their goal.
“But at the same time there’s this great sense of danger of growing up,” she said, “making a misstep.”
Larsen’s step toward becoming an artist sprung from a desire to take something ordinary and offer a fresh perspective.
“My life seemed sort of interesting, but, in a way, it feels like it lacked form and meaning,” she said. “I wanted to give it form and meaning.”
The artists will discuss their work during a public reception held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Nov. 6 at the University Gallery, located at 400 SW 13th St.