Over the course of her career, Mary Frank has worked with sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, encaustic, and recently, photography. This range demonstrates that her primary loyalty is not to a particular process or to any medium, but rather to the power of direct expression and to the act of creation itself. Frankâs oeuvre is united by a lexicon of core imagery and a mode of execution that privileges intuition and improvisation. Her work is marked by a deep emotional resonance. She is drawn to the concept, most often expressed in Asian thought, of events, time, and understanding as simultaneousy both near and far.
Frankâs paintings often begin as abstractions of dark and light, of swirling and still elements. Gradually, they focus on a specific person, animal, event, or place, slowly evolving as the artist creates, in her words, âa pre-existing time and atmosphere where events can take place.â The recurring imagery of trees, owls, ships, chasms in the earth, and human figures running, leaping, crouching, and gazing at the whirlwind surrounding them becomes, in Maryâs hands, an alphabet that is combined in ever-changing ways to communicate grief and love, sorrow and ecstasy, mourning and exultation. Consequently, there is a narrative within each piece and also within the entire body of work, as the imagery reverberates and creates a cumulative effect.
Mary Frank was born in London, England, in 1933 and moved to the United States at the age of seven. In the early 1950s she began carving wood sculpture, and briefly studied with Hans Hoffman and Max Beckmann. In 1969, she began working on large, multi-part, ïŹgurative clay sculptures, drawings, and monoprints, which remained the major focus of her work throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Frank turned to painting as her primary medium in the 1990s. Recently, she has been experimenting with photography.
Frank has been the subject of numerous solo museum and gallery exhibitions over the years, including a retrospective exhibition of sculpture, prints, and drawings organized by the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, New York in 1978; an in-depth look at her Persephone Series at the Brooklyn Museum, New York in 1988; and Natural Histories, organized by the DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA in 1988, which traveled to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia and the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY in 1989. In 2000, the Neuberger presented Encounters, a major traveling retrospective of the artistâs paintings, which was accompanied by a book by Linda Nochlin. In 2003, Experiences, a solo exhibition of Mary Frankâs paintings, was organized by the Marsh Art Gallery, University of Richmond, VA. In 1990, Abrams, New York published a major survey of Mary Frankâs work, authored by Hayden Herrera. Two years later Abrams published Shadows of Africa, a collaboration between the artist and poet Peter Matthiessen.
Mary Frankâs work is in the permanent collections of the above institutions and other museums including: The Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Jewish Museum, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.