Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thinking about Mary Frank

I've been thinking about Mary Frank lately. She was once wife of Swiss-American photographer Robert Frank, yes, but that's not what defines her. Not at all.

To me, the image at right, "Three Dancers: (1981), is quintessential Mary Frank--a glimpse of her preoccupations and (at least ephemeral) self definition. So too with the sculpture below, "Lover" (1977). In college, I made a few pottery projects in her spirit: slab pieces containing bas relief hands or skeletal fingers, vessels with belly buttons, slab-molded feet. Some of these appear in our flower gardens even now, a remnant of my semi-radical college-era sense of womanhood.
I voraciously consumed monographs about Frank's career and her life philosophies--not that she necessarily considered them philosophies. I remember that she felt a primitive power in dirt, and liked to put her hands into its warmth. I appreciate this. I know what it's like to lay seeds into warm soil, to pick potatoes out of dirt so black it looks like powdered asphalt and glitters with mica chips and flinty anthracite. There is certainly power in soil, something primal that makes things happen. Every homesteader can sympathize with this notion.

In those moments I would spend in the library stacks, taking a necessary break from studying for my biology or medieval history courses, I learned that she studied with Max Beckman (once my artistic hero) and Hans Hoffman. She was a serious artist. She was the kind of woman I hoped to become: uninhibitedly creative, self-assured in her craft, following primal pathways towards that creativity.

I feel more this way on the farm, less so in the city, where I pick up too many other sources of energy. You may think this is bizarre, but I feel energy from outside sources (and I think everyone would, if they were to become more conscious of it)--even too much traffic has a disruptive effect on me if I am walking alongside it for an extended period of time. After all, we're all made of atoms, which in solid form, vibrate with potential power.
But I have to, as John Wayne would say, put an 'amen' to this, since I have to head to the Writing Lab in a few moments and then to my afternoon class. There's much to think about here, and more to come in the next post.

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