BOOK EXCERPT: An Artist's Journey

 

 

 

Nancy B. Frank’s sensually brushed horses are powerful creatures, beautifully articulated with great attention to detail.

Dignity and intelligence shine through soulful eyes…The multi-talented Nancy B. is a larger-than-life personality whose larger-than-life equine images [treat] the eye with equine grace and majesty.  Once this gifted artist hit her stride, Nancy B. was, and remains, unstoppable in the genre…

 

When she was a girl, Frank did not just love horses, she thought she was a horse.  “My best friend Peggy and I galloped around the block with scarves sticking out of our pants to look like tails.”  The artist, who holds an M.F.A. in photo-printmaking [from] the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.F.A. in painting from Ohio Wesleyan University has lived in Telluride, Colorado, since 1989. …Despite her childhood passion for equines, fact is she had routinely shied away from horses as a suitable subject matter.  [In her words:] “So many people like me love the magical mystery and beauty of a horse, but for years I felt trying to capture that majesty on canvas would  be a cliché.”...Those feelings changed when Frank began doing equestrian travel to different countries and cultures.  Because of digital photography, she was able to paint from her original color photographs.   Nancy B. found herself painting horses through the strength of her photographer’s eye and the heart of a person who loves them…

 

[The artist] never liked empty spaces on canvas, so she photographed her horses to fill the screen and,  subsequently, the picture plane, with heads, manes, bits and reins in extreme close-up.  Her horse images hold the dynamic tension embodied by these powerful, proud creatures, bound up with tack, yes, but only superficially submissive.  Inside, like the artist herself, they will always remain unbridled…Frank’s horses mark the moment the artist came into her power, the result of finding her natural subject and creating work that is very very good and honoring that fact of her life [as an equestrienne]… Nowadays, when it comes to painting horses, Frank owns the finish line.  [As she says,] “My horse paintings mark the first time in my life as an artist that I managed to marry my love of color with a subject I am passionate about.  I am proud of these paintings because I was finally able to infuse technique with emotion.”

 

There is a good reason that “art” is embedded in “heart.”  

 

--These excerpts are from a painting exhibition review entitled “UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL” by Susan Viebrock that appeared in Telluride Inside and Out (January 26, 2018)

Book excerpt; SILVER LINING

SILVER LINING

It was as if I were in slow motion, half on, half off, seemingly watching myself from above as I flew through the air.  When I finally did hit the ground, I just lay there, assessing, my pride hurt more than anything physical.   I looked up and around to see my young horse facing me with an “I won” attitude.

He had spooked without warning at an open door.  The only problem was that he hadn’t spooked away from the scary opening, he had spooked towards it, meaning his motion had been deliberate and dishonest.

That was the first hint my boy just might not be the horse for me.  I remember going home that evening, sitting on my couch where I wept and wept.  I had recently lost my mother, with whom I had been close—uncommonly close.  She was my best friend.  Within months of my mother’s death, I lost three cats and then my dog.   This horse seemed the final betrayal. 

By the time he left, I had come to realize that his departure was not a death, but a decision: a huge difference.  I had learned that it was time not to dwell in the past but to create new beginnings.

Obsessively, I was driven to find his replacement.

Video after video I watched robotic horses going ‘round in circles under restraining hands while the price ever increased.   Had I not done so much research, I doubt I would have appreciated the big white horse advertised through a rescue group, pictured walking through a drive-in with his rider aboard ordering a burger.  This horse resonated.   

I was attracted to him because of his beautiful movement and his kind eye. Had I flown to Southern California, as I was coached to do, to ride a horse before purchase, I doubt I would have bought him. Instead I took the risk and simply had him shipped to me with the rationalization I had a month’s trial period. 

He arrived during a full moon.  That first night his white coat glowed in the moonlight   It was as if there were a huge magical Unicorn in my yard: my mother’s totem.

Why was I determined to buy an untrained horse that had had abusive early training?

My new horse was a rescue that had never had a “person”.  I was a person in mourning who needed rescuing.  I could feel my mother’s nod of approval. 

 I named him Silver Lining.  

NEW! Up Close and Personal, The Equine Paintings, a book by Nancy B. Frank

Available at Amazon.com, Google Books, iTunes and Freisen Bookstore online.

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In this equine painting series by Nancy B Frank, the images explore the sometimes troubled, sometimes harmonious, relationship between horse and human. Frank also delves into her artistic journey and some of her own relationships with horses she's known. Let your imagination envision the story behind each painting, where The Horse comes to life in acrylic on canvas.

"Nancy B. Frank has traveled the world to ride horses, experiencing different countries and cultures. Throughout these experiences, she remains amazed by the partnership with the horses. The relationship between human and horse is what creates the tension in her paintings. The images are larger than life, yet intimate, and strive to capture the beauty, power, and grace of the horse. It is a unique agreement and the spirit of both human and horse that make Frank’s paintings shine with light and life."

–Telluride Arts

“Frank paints with an emphasis of portraying not only the joy and beauty and the incredible spirit of the horse, but its character, its condition and its plight. She is unafraid to express horses burdened in leather, straps and gear. Frank paints in near realism and presents her subjects as sensitive, soulful creatures. What makes her paintings unique is that, beyond their surface beauty and nobility, she has a profound understanding of the . . . remarkable bargain between woman and beast. Frank paints how she lives. Authentic. Honest. Heartfelt."

–Brave Art Consulting

"The artist drills down to the sensitive and intelligent proclivities of a powerful companion. Her unflinching attention to the gritty detail of tack portrays the heart of a compassionate and responsive owner, rider and artist.”

–Anne Bachner, author of PRARIE LEGACY

"We aren't here for a long time, we're here for a good time." These are Nancy B. Frank's words to live by. After 13 years living in New York City, Frank chased her dream to "play horse" and moved to a small mountain town in Colorado. Here, she renewed her passion for painting, combining it with an insatiable desire to convey the movement of the horse in two-dimensions. Her paintings sweat, bend, and froth. Moments of flight are frozen; tails are in mid-swing, foamy white saliva sprays, and muscles flex. For Frank, the San Juan mountains serve as the perfect place for her studio, set amidst soaring aspen trees and the sounds of hoofbeats.

–Kelly Woods, Director, Marianne Boesky Gallery

Nancy B. Frank paints in figurative realism in acrylic on canvas. Frank has worked successfully in mediums as varied as painted wooden jewelry, sculptured cakes, designed and painted furniture, as well as photography. From her travels and experiences around the world, and from her being an equestrian herself, she has found her passion as a painter of horses. Frank earned an M.F.A. in photo-printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison after receiving a B.F.A. in painting at Ohio Wesleyan University. She lives and works in Telluride, Colorado.

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Exhibition: Up Close & Personal, Gallery 81435, Feb. 2018

Diablo, Rodeo, Derby, The Thinker, and Silver Lining are among a group of 12 paintings of horses Nancy B. Frank has on display in February at Telluride Arts’ Gallery 81435 in a show entitled “Up Close & Personal.” And because artists tend to depict aspects of themselves in their work – portraits obviously, but landscapes, even abstractions too – Nancy B.’s sensually brushed horses are powerful creatures, beautifully articulated with great attention to detail. Dignity and intelligence shine through their soulful eyes.

The multi-talented Nancy B. is a larger-than-life personality whose larger-than-life equine images don’t just rinse the eye with equine grace and majesty. We are treated to a full bath. So move over George Stubbs. A dark horse is closing in on your lead and really feeling her oats. The path she took to her persistent muses may have been winding, but once this gifted artist hit her stride, Nancy B. was  – and remains – unstoppable in the genre.

When she was a girl, Nancy B. did not just love horses, she thought she was a horse.

“My best friend Peggy and I galloped around my dining room table on our hands and knees. We galloped with scarves sticking out of our pants to look like tails.”

The artist – who holds an M.F.A. in photo-printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.F.A. in painting from Ohio Wesleyan University – has lived in Telluride since 1989.

Out of the gate, Nancy B. has worked successfully in a variety of mediums: jewelry, sculptured cakes, painted furniture, faux painting and photography. In fact, her whimsical, over-the-top cakes landed her a feature in The New Yorker’s popular “Talk of the Town” column.

Back then, however, when she painted, Frank’s subject matter was, frankly, all across the metaphorical map: planets, pearls, birds, and bats galore. While decorative and technically proficient, these early works amounted to lots of hustle, no flow.

And despite her childhood passion for equines, fact is Frank had routinely shied away from horses as a suitable subject matter.

Why?

The explanation is as simple as it is complex: horse painting has a long and storied history. Just think about the Parthenon frieze; the equestrian portraits of Verrochio and Donatello; the regal equines of Peter Paul Rubens; Degas’s horses at the racetrack; and Picasso’s “Guernica.” And, in the 18th century, the aforementioned Stubbs (1724-1806), the go-to guy when it came to horse images. (To this day, the man is widely considered the best horse painter who ever lived.)

Nancy B. knew that history and had swallowed the standard rap on horse and “sporting” art in general: holier-than-thou critics, even other painters, have historically looked down on animaliers, those who painted only animals: they were minor artists who produced work for the amusement of the leisure class only. That was true even in the 18th century, the Age of the Horse.

“So many people like me love the power and grace of a horse, but for years I felt trying to capture that majesty on canvas was such a cliché.”

Those feelings changed when Nancy B. began doing equestrian travel to different countries and cultures. Because of digital photography, she was able to paint from her original color photographs. Nancy B. found herself painting horses from the strength of her photographer’s eye  – and the heart of a person who loves them.

Nancy B. never liked empty spaces on canvas, so she photographed her horses to fill the screen and, subsequently, the picture plane, with haunches and heads, manes and tails, glossy coats, bits, and reins in extreme close-up.

And in doing what she does in the unique way she does it, Nancy B. reigns supreme: her horse images are fraught with the dynamic tension embodied by these powerful, proud creatures, bound up with tack, yes, but only superficially submissive. Inside – and just like the artist herself – they will always remain unbridled.

As the show at Gallery 81435 proves, Nancy B.’s horses mark the moment the artist came into her power, the result of finding her natural subject and creating work that is very very good – and honoring that fact of her life.

Nowadays, when it comes to painting horses, Frank owns the finish line.

“My horse paintings mark the first time in my life as an artist that I managed to marry my love of color with a subject I know and love. When I paint horses, I am out of my head, working from my heart. There is good reason that ‘art’ is embedded in ‘heart.’”

All that said, in addition to her signature horse images and over the same period of time she created them, Nancy B. has been riding a parallel track, creating abstractions based on, again, an up close and personal view of the architecture of the places she visited and loved. Horses, abstractions really boil down to a singular passion: no matter the subject, for the former printmaker, Nancy B., it all comes down to color and texture which fills the surfaces of her images – paintings and photographs – north, south, east and west. To prove the point, first look at her horse paintings, then squint:

The truth of Nancy B.’s close cropped style will out.

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NANCY B FRANK | "A Show of Horses" | Ross Art Museum

VISIT NANCYBFRANK.COM

“A Show of Horses” concluded a two  month display of my work at the Ross Art Museum on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University, my Alma Mater.

The shared exhibit was held in conjunction with the Little Brown Jug harness races, an annual event in Delaware Ohio.  The bronze sculptures are by Lynda Sappington while the antique artifacts were from the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.  The show received stellar support from the University and local community, which included two of my x art professors who came to the opening.

September 11, 2016, Peter Tonguette of the Columbus Dispatch wrote “Horse Show Exudes Plenty of Personality”.   He found the exhibit “well timed” and was keen to observe facial expression and mood in my subjects.

He may have overlooked, however, an important dimension in my work;  an emphasis of portraying not only the joy and beauty and the incredible spirit of the horse, but his character, his condition and his plight.  I am unafraid to express horses burdened in leather, straps and gear imposed by his human master.  I have traveled to several countries and equestrian cultures-Portugal, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Patagonia, to name a few, as well as in the States, to experience and photograph both good and not so good relationships between the horse and human.  I have been witness to methods and treatments of the domesticated horse not always kind but dominance based-an animal “broken” for human use.

In stark contrast to my observations, I train and ride horses of my own, wanting to not only provide amnesty and refuge for these vulnerable teachers, but I seek that higher level of pure unspoken partnership.  I pursue at length the most gentle and humane equipment and training techniques, befriending my horses, hoping to gain their trust, love and respect.  I paint in near realism and present my subjects as sensitive, soulful creatures.  What makes my paintings unique is that, beyond their surface beauty and nobility, I have an understanding of the human entrapments which might bind and confuse these extraordinary animals, yet they are willing to work with us.

- Nancy B Frank

 Ross Art Museum | Ohio Wesleyan University | 2016

Ross Art Museum | Ohio Wesleyan University | 2016

 Ross Art Museum | Ohio Wesleyan University | 2016

Ross Art Museum | Ohio Wesleyan University | 2016

 Ross Art Museum | Ohio Wesleyan University | 2016

Ross Art Museum | Ohio Wesleyan University | 2016