Larry Villarin “I said goodbye to art at about age 20. But then I had one of those ‘Aha!’ moments. And now I’m home again, doing what I love.”

Many people like to learn in a ‘hands-on’ way. But imagine how it would be if the objects of this ‘hands-on’ approach were…corpses! “I was a 20-year-old unemployed photographer when I got a job in a hospital. That’s when it started,” says Larry Villarin, who still works as an on-call autopsy technician for hospitals all over LA County. But that’s not even the most intriguing skill-set that Larry has picked up in his knockabout years.

“I’d been involved in a lot of psychological areas all my life; crisis and drug counseling and all that. And because of all the experiences I had, I began working with a psychologist, and became a sex surrogate for ten years. I’d become involved with someone—through therapy—to help them overcome some perceived dysfunction,” says Larry about a field of endeavor that might raise some puritanical eyebrows. “But I felt I did great good in that way, because I’m a warm, personable guy who people trust.” But only in recent years was Larry able to trust in his real hunger to become what he always knew he should be: an artist.

“I thank Linda Lopez for kicking my butt into the Arts Mentor program. I took her Conceptual Art class, and it just threw gas on the fire. And Sharon Kagan is a performance artist who is opening even more doors for me. I’ve always been writing little things that I couldn’t typify, but—it turns out—they’re really performance art,” explains Larry. “I think I tap into universal pain, and though I might be a fuzzy-thinking optimist—I feel that through art and expression I can help a lot of people find unity and harmony in life.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.