Larry white: A High-Desert Artist/Maker with an Important Design-History Pedigree

By Katie Nartonis

“I like to think of art as a place of convergence, where the intuitive thoughtfulness, and creative energy of the maker merges with the personal history and psyche of the observer. I believe this interaction is catalytic in the evolution of culture, mind and spirit.” – Larry White

Artist and maker, Larry White, lives with his artist wife, Dee Small, outside Pioneertown in Rimrock, here in the high desert. He maintains a small studio in Pioneertown where he creates – non-stop. White is a respected Southern Californian woodworker, sculptor, painter, and ceramicist whose career has spanned over 50 years. His work has been exhibited nationally, and his pieces are found in both important private and public institutions.

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An influential professor, White has taught at two California Universities (Fullerton + Santa Cruz) as well as the famed Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, Colorado. He currently serves as visiting artist at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts in Alta Loma where he regularly teaches wood-working workshops and gives private tours of the historical Maloof hand-built home.

White is a part of the important story of 20th century design history, due in large part to his long collaboration with the master American woodworker, Sam Maloof. Sam Maloof (1916-2009) is still considered the most famous 20th Century West Coast furniture maker. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter both owned Maloof’s iconic hand-made sculpted rocking chair. Maloof’s work is found in museums and private collections all over the world. White first started working with Maloof in 1962, at the age of 19 and spent almost 30 years working by his side.

Maloof surrounded himself with a handful of skilled craftsmen like White who he called “the boys.” The boys would assist him in the inspired yet laborious job of constructing (and sanding) Maloof’s bespoke handmade furniture – from raw board to finished oiled piece. Together with the Sam Maloof Woodworker team, White and Maloof created organic modernist chairs, tables, beds, cribs and other iconic Sam Maloof designs. They made modern design history and Maloof’s historic pieces regularly sell in the many tens of thousands at auction. The iconic sculptural Maloof rocking chair has sold for over $100,000 at its market peak.

White has always maintained a vibrant art practice outside of his work with Sam Maloof and is known and celebrated on his own terms. His current desert home and studio finds him working on jewelry, woodworking, ceramics, and sculpture. He finds the quiet and calm of the desert to be a boon to his art-making practice, and an inspiration at the same time.

In 2019, White told VoyageLA “I like the idea that art is a process, not a thing. I love the intuitive mental meander during creative activity. Most of my work is multimedia regardless of the discipline I’ve chosen. I tap into a stream of conscience that informs the direction a piece takes…. Success for me is to complete a creative endeavor that exceeds my expectations. I feel successful when my work is appreciated by my peers and is generally perceived in a positive manner.

Anything else is just an accounting by the whims of taste. I think for ultimate satisfaction an artist should be steadfast in their work and totally committed to personal vision.”

White’s recent retrospective show, “EQUILIBRIUM” which explored over 50 years of his creative endeavors was held at the Maloof Foundation this past year. The show included works from all the chapters of his artistic life. His organic modernist style takes cues from the sinuous shapes of nature. The show underscored that this artist is a master of many mediums. The exhibit told a clear story of White’s artistic exploration when he stepped outside of the Maloof Studio and entered his own. Many of White’s sculptures are currently on view in the gardens.

You can find more information on White’s studio work at, and you can connect with him on Instagram @larrywhiteartist.

The Sam Maloof foundation for Arts + Crafts campus is one of the treasures of San Bernardino County and is only an hour and a half drive from the Morongo Valley. The Maloof visiting hours are Friday and Saturday, 12:00pm-2pm. Visitors are encouraged to explore the foundations’ museum shop, take a tour of the historic Maloof home, or explore the beautiful droughttolerant gardens on the 16-acre lush campus. More information, including private Larry White tours of the historic hand-built home, and other upcoming events can be found by going to All exhibits are free and open to the public.

Katie Nartonis is a writer, curator, film maker and specialist in art and design. Her most recent documentary film, “Jack Rogers Hopkins: Calfornia Design Maverick,” about the late San Diego based mid-century designercraftsman, premiered during Palm Springs Modernism Week in 2023. She is currently writing “Glimpses of The Joshua Tree Dream,” a book on the way we live in the high desert.

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