The best artists I know draw me into a story. Even if it’s a conceptual or abstract work, the narrative at work captures my interest. Or not, in which case, the work is uninteresting. Sometimes the story is about the medium or materials; it can even be about the history of the piece itself.
Representational art has not always been in vogue, of course. But as my friend, Fran Judd pointed out, one of the great things about being an artist today is that there is not one prevailing style that is dominating the art scene or the affections of the public. So, while materialism and the minimalism and all of those non-representational “isms” have had their day, we artists are now – finally! – free to express ourselves through any visual style we choose. Even portraits are once again an acceptable expression.
That is good for Fran, who began painting after leaving corporate life, a mere 6 years ago. “I love painting people!” says Fran, “but I’ve never painted an actual person.” Looking around her lovely studio, I did not see a single painting, with the exception of the new abstract she recently began, that did not include a person. Each painting is unique in emotional and visual tone and coloration; each character tells a tale. Some are humorous, some dream-like, some haunting.
During November and December of last year, Fran had a show of her paintings at Artworks Studios here in Loveland. The show was a collaborative effort with poet Lynn Kincanon, who wrote poetry in response to Fran’s images. The two women also put together a book with the same title as the show, “Evocation.” The book was facilitated and assembled by local photographer Bob Campagna. The show featured dozens of portraits – all from the imagination of the artist, all painted in acrylic glazes on sandpaper.
I attended the opening of that show, and reflected that some of the figures reminded me of Marc Chagal, some of Emil Nolde. But mostly, I found the images transcendent, drawing me into some narrative unknown, leaving me to imagine what had happened or would happen.
As I talked with Fran in her studio, I could hardly imagine her as anything but a painter. Surrounded by paintings, including a floor canvas in front of the sofa, the whole room was warmed by the faces and colors I saw. Indeed, Fran was educated in art history and did not begin painting at all until she was living in Loveland. Yet painting had always been her desire.
Inspired by (no surprise here!) Gauguin, van Gogh and the Fauves, Fran began her painting career in our little town, where artists inspire and cooperate with one another every day. “I love having a studio here at Artworks. Even though it can be distracting, it’s so nice having these other artists dropping in. They are really supportive. It’s sad; several people will be leaving soon.”
Even with so much going on in the arts here in town, it’s still tough to make it all work. Loveland is not yet a hot spot for art buyers, so we artists have to figure out how to support ourselves. So, while Fran is excited about the direction of her new work, she’s not sure what the details of her creative future will be.
“I really like working bigger,” says Fran of the 4″ x 5″ abstract piece she is working on. “I’m not sure it will stay abstract, but that’s what I’m trying now.” She told me of her desire to be more linear, fluid and loose – more fun, “not so serious.” Then, Fran told me how she got the large canvas, and also another one, the same size.
“Early this year, I was in the hospital for a few days. When I got back to my studio, there were these two big canvases, with bows on them. The other artists here had gotten them for me.” She smiled as she recalled the gift that is now a part of her story, that she will use to create another visual story. And so it goes. Thanks for sharing your story, Fran!