N.C. Department of Correction--Correction News--September 1998

DOC dentist is really an artist at heart

An impressive painting of the historic Zebulon Latimer House in Wilmington hangs on the wall in an office in the Shore Building in Raleigh. In the painting, snow is falling, lightly gathering on the trees and fence posts surrounding the house. A single soul makes his way down the sidewalk, past the house, pulling his coat and hat close as protection against the falling snow. The painting is signed L. Glasner ‘88.

In the Department of Correction, L. Glasner is better known as Dr. Larry Glasner, dentist at Pender Correctional Institution. However, in 1988, when the painting was completed, L. Glasner was known as Larry Glasner, artist.

For Glasner, it has to be either dentistry or art – he says it is just too difficult to do both at the same time. "For me, art is not a hobby for fun – art is difficult," he said. "People always say you can paint on the weekends or in the evenings after work, but painting is too much like dentistry. It’s very focused. During the day, I’m focused on such a small area - the mouth - all day. When I come home, I don’t want to continue to focus on something that small. I’d rather go out and mow the grass or go lift weights."

So for now, Glasner has put away his brushes and paint and is taking a break from capturing beautiful scenes on canvas in order to care for the teeth of inmates housed in three of the state’s prisons. As the dentist at Pender, Glasner also attends to the dental needs of inmates at New Hanover Correctional Center and Columbus Correctional Center.

Raised on a farm in Tennessee, Glasner always had a love for art. As a young child, he would often paint little pictures that he would trade with friends or sell to neighbors to raise money for gifts. Although they approved of his artwork, Glasner said his parents were insistent that he be well educated, and they did not see his artwork as a suitable profession. So instead of pursuing art classes in school, Glasner went into dentistry.

After college, Glasner started his own private practice and worked as a dentist for nearly 20 years before selling the practice to paint full time.

"The practice did very well," he said. "But I had been in it for many years and decided I wanted to paint."

As an untrained artist who had only taken two art classes in his life, Glasner was surprisingly successful as an artist. Painting what he sees, Glasner has produced amazing pictures of scenes around and close to Wilmington such as the Catholic school where his son went to school and the dunes at Wrightsville Beach. He has also painted several pictures of mountain scenes from times when he went camping with his son.

"My art is representational," he said. "You can tell a tree is a tree and a house is a house. I have to observe a scene to be able to paint it."

During his stint as a full-time artist, Glasner sold many of his paintings at galleries and through parties. "Things were tight during this time," he said. "I could have supported myself with my art, but no one else."

So when his son moved in with him, Glasner decided it was time to give up the art and return to dentistry. After filling in for a few private dentists on a part-time basis, Glasner secured the position at Pender on a contract basis.

"I took the job, initially, for 90 days," he said. "Then 90 days turned into several months and several months turned into four years."

A little wary at first, Glasner said he wasn’t quite sure what he was getting into when he accepted the position at Pender.

"At first I was afraid that I’d be in danger or have to deal with people with attitudes," he said. "But it’s been just the opposite. The inmates are very respectful."

Glasner said he experienced a break through in his thinking when he realized that his job is not to punish the inmates, but to do dentistry.

"I soon realized that inmates are just like any other people," he said. "Patients are patients. I treat them all kindly. Treating inmates is just as rewarding as treating patients in private practice. I feel just as good about myself when I go home at night as I did before."

Although he’s not painting for now, Glasner says he’s happy with his choices. "I like DOC very much. It’s a lot less stressful than working in a private practice, because I don’t have to worry about collecting payments and dealing with business issues. Here I can focus more on performing dentistry." u

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