HELEN LAFRANCE CONTEMPORARY FOLK ART PAINTING/ SOUTHERN SELF-TAUGHT "CHURCH PICNIC" O/C S&D 1998
This evocative memory painting of a "Church Picnic" is by the extremely talented HELEN LaFRANCE and is signed and dated 1998. Oil on canvas and unframed so you can choose your own, its dimensions are 14" in height x 18" in width. LaFrance is a self-taught black artist who was born in 1919 in Western Kentucky. Her specialty is memory paintings of the disappearing lifestyle of the rural South, although she has painted and interpreted religious themes and floral studies, usually in oil on canvas. She has painted since she was a small child, always following her mother's wisdom to "paint what you know." Not limited to two-dimensional media, she is an exceptional quilt maker and wood carver, whose animal sculptures and articulated dolls dressed in handmade textile clothing are delightful. But it is her paintings that most strongly suggest a common human experience. The synthesis of her personal history, folk tradition, artistic invention and expression is what makes her unique and thus important. ¬† LaFrance's work is held in many important private collections, including Gayle King, Bryant Gumble and contemporary artist Red Grooms, and museums throughout the United States and Europe. She is featured in a chapter of Kathy Moses' reference book, "Outsider Art of the South", published by Schiffer Ltd. and is the subject of a new book, "Helen LaFrance Folk Art Memories" by Kathy Moses with Bruce Shelton, with a foreword by Lee Kogan of the American Folk Art Museum, New York. LaFrance memorializes this particular church and has painted several versions of it. Each one, though, is unique in mood, composition and palette. This church was the magnet for both spiritual and secular life in the rural community where LaFrance grew up. It was where services, baptisms, funerals and family picnics all took place. LaFrance's reminiscences of a time bygone are a rich source of inspiration that subtly draws the viewer in to that time and place---with colors, shapes and composition, with the shadows from the tall oaks dappling the ground, the bark on the trees, the little girls playing in their party dresses, the old cars and the horses and wagons.
Helen LaFrance celebrated her 100th birthday in November of 2019. She died one year later in 2020 at 101 years of age.
The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY mounted a beautiful catalogued show of Helen's work running from August 30, 2022 through April 30, 2023 called Kentucky Women: Helen LaFrance.