Frances Lerner: After All

November 20, 2019 - January 09, 2020

at Gallery Commonweal
451 Mesa Road, Bolinas, CA 95446

A Survey of Work from the Last Ten Years

~Artist reception Saturday, December 7, 3:00-5:00 pm~

The pieces in this exhibition are chosen primarily from four chronological bodies of work, though not presented that way.

The first series was called There Was Once a World which is a series of allegorical human stories using puppets as if they were elements of a still life placed in various imaginary and actual settings. Painted basically from observation, , in an earnest, restrained and understated way , these paintings are simultaneously old fashioned and contemporary, naïve and sophisticated, resurrecting Old Master techniques with thin colored glazes painted over a black and white underpainting.

The main puppet, Lorelei, possibly an alter ego, is my metaphor for perplexity, paradox, and a woman’s predicament. She symbolizes the conflict between reverie, creativity, and secular practicality, the tasks and work of the concrete world. Part puppet, part human, Lorelei can be any peasant, immigrant, orphan or artist in any sweatshop, factory or studio.

My primary goal in this series was to create an ironic nostalgia and reinstate genuine pathos and tenderness. “There but for the Grace of God go I” underpins the work.

The second series is titled Minor Characters and Sympathetic Criminals. In these paintings, Lorelei is just one among the many strugglers.  The characters are pinned into their architecture, their circumstances both literally and figuratively. They get by, though barely, in some mysterious space where narrative and abstraction meet.

The palette in these paintings has become darker and more solemn and muted, emphasizing color interactions rather than local color.

Unlikely Companions both abandons and rejects premises of the two previous series. It began with painting on even smaller panels to deal with larger, lofty themes like mortality, creating a contradiction.

Then, for somewhat unknown reasons, I began buying old bellows, drawn both by the way they operate, feeding the fire with air. The bellows rounded petal forms and angular shapes (similar in some ways to the misshapen Lorelei) were what I loved.  But, instead of doing a painting of the object, my impulse was to pull the actual bellows apart and reunite them forming a sort of hybrid. Some of the paintings seemed to spawn the sculptures and spill into real space which created a third meaning.

Other pieces in this series began to play with contradictory materials like vintage wool and cast concrete that formed a kind of old world symbiosis where materials hold memory.

For the last three years, I’ve returned to the combination of representation and abstraction, using oil paint on paper. Because of travel, paper was lighter and easier. And accidentally, I stumbled on another technique called needlefelting that I am modifying and playing with to create both two and three dimensional pieces using wire or old hats as a kind of armature. The paintings return to illusion, while the wool pieces actually exist in the real world.  Again, pairing them off creates odd juxtapositions, either dissonant or harmonious.

In the Omega Room are earlier work, etchings and etching drawings from my archive.