Artist Statement: Complex, Simple (process so complex, yet end product so simple). Ethereal, clean, capture of light, color, translucence, seeing through color.
Natalie Kates: I first met Michele Francis about three years ago at one of her shows in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. Even then she was conceptualizing color in various forms and patterns. Today I am excited to be one of the first to see her new works entitled “M Series II” which is the evolution of her work fully realized in three-dimensional sculptural shapes. Michele, can you tell me about your new body of work and how it came to be?
Michele Francis: I guess what I am trying to do is capture something about ice and the color of water up in the Arctic regions and the melting of that water. I’m not trying to be super literal; it’s more of a sensation. A lot of my work deals with water, and just these forms came about after M Series 1, which was all about light, petals of flowers, leaves, reflecting through glass – that was my focus from the first series, and this evolved into something more flowing.
NK: Take us through your process, looking at the pieces, my first thought was: are they fiberglass, Plexiglas or are they pre-fabricated in a 3D machine?
MF: In Series II I got rid of the frame so they’re free floating now and I’m able to make any shapes I want, and the shadow on the wall could be just as interesting as the painting and it’s all part of the piece and I wanted them to be super clean and white, almost like clouds, you know, just very soft. I create each shape by hand using a process of many layers of gesso and paint; this white paint that I mix up has three different sorts of elements to it. Once dried and they are sanded down and they become the sculptural foundation, they almost look soft, and I add the color which is not manipulated, it just goes into the piece and it starts of flow. So there are so many different aspects to them, in making them, and the last thing I do is put the color and it fits.
NK: I love how you create each shape by hand, and it almost reminds me of a glacial landscape and how the color has collected and solidified at the lowest portions of your sculptures.
MF: I like that you could see through color, because a lot of times color is opaque, I mean you don’t see through it, you see like reflections, or something can look like you can see through it but you can’t see through it. Where you can see through the pieces you can see like where there is more depth and it’s just that subtle kind of feeling you get when you are looking through water.
NK: Like the ocean where the deepest portions are the darkest and the shallower the water the more the color lightens.
MF: I was really inspired by a documentary by the scientist James Balog. He is also an artist and photographer who works often for National Geographic.
NK: I believe color affects us subconsciously, hence the clichés “are you feeling blue today” or “you’re green with envy”. I like how color has been a consistent theme in your work. How important a role does color play in your work?
MF: I think in the minimum sense it becomes the most important thing, because everything else around it is supporting it somehow. I tend to more and more step away from a lot going on, it is more about the subtlety and a pop kind of thing. So it is a sort of main stage, but there’s a lot backing it up, it doesn’t have the same intensity. And color sort of means everything to me, in the pieces. I like seeing color on it’s own.
NK: When you are layering your resin, is it the same color or do you use multiple colors, let them dry, add and add or is the resin poured in one point?
MF: It depends. Sometimes it takes five or six pours and then I get it. Or sometimes, there are two different layers, a darker and a lighter. But somehow, when the resin pours, it goes the way it is going to go, and a few times it wasn’t exactly the way I wanted it to go, so I had to do it again and then again… And then it started to take shape I needed it to be.
NK: Is your pouring thought out or random?
MF: Yes, there is an element of randomness, but in the end they are exactly how I want them to be.
NK: For your M Series 2, what are some words that you would use to describe them?
MF: They are interactive in a way, very subtle and calming.
NK: When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
MF: I knew when I was pretty young that I did this drawing and mom put it up in the kitchen or whatever, I got so many compliments on it, I was five years old, and it just made me feel so good. It really started in high school,11th grade. I then got a scholarship to Parsons School of Design.
NK: Do you think the art game has changed because of social media, and if yes, can you maybe elaborate? Are you on Facebook, do you have fan page, do you Instagram?
MF: I’m doing the work all the time, I’m so focused on getting these done, the marketing part of it is something that I really like to leave to somebody else, to be honest.
NK: Where is your upcoming show?
MF: It is going to be at the Highline Loft.
NK: Are you emotionally attached to your works and if yes is it hard when you sale them?
MF: Doing work is emotional, I do miss them when they leave, but the best feeling is to see them again in a collector’s home.
NK: And if somebody were interested in doing a studio visit, or possibly acquiring a piece of your art, what would be the best way to reach you?
MF: The website has my e-mail address as well, which is firstname.lastname@example.org
NK: Perfect, thank you!