Monday, March 31, 2014

Fran Gardner - Her Art is About Dialogue

Mark Leaving - Legend - Fran Gardner
Mixed Media - 8" 8"

I have known Fran Gardner  and her work for many years.  Fran lives here in South Carolina and is an established part of the art scene. I had been in contact with her for some time until last year when we were both part of an exhibition at the Pickens County Museum of Art.  I was really excited to see some of Fran's new work and to get reacquainted.

Mark Leaving - White Noise - Fran Gardner
Mixed Media - 8" x 8"

Fran's current body of work is compact but fully energized with texture, shapes, marks and information.  In an older artist statement she described her work as conversation, discussion, and debate which lead to a dialogue.  This work continues in that same vein but with references to mark making both historic and contemporary.

The pieces have a wonderful sense of scale and can be perceived as being very large works but each of the works presented here is only 8" x 8".  These works grab and hold my interest.  The work is small in size but not precious.  There are many layers of fabric, paint and stitching, all meshed and very painterly, loose but sensiti


Personal Petroglyph . Bow and Arrow - Fran Gardner
Mixed Media - 8" x 8"

Fran Gardner - Artistic Statement

Petroglyphs, architecture, graffiti - examples of our collective human urge to leave an imprint.  The relics are a historical record with a tenacious existence.  Think the caves of Lascaux, the pyramids, and the surfaces of train cars.

My work speaks to this human urge for mark leaving, referring to that enduring historical record while simultaneously becoming a part of it.  The materials, not rock, brick or steel, but rather fabric, thread and paint translate into an intimate and ephemeral account of my perception of our shared history, present and future.

Personal Petroglyph - Code Breaker - Fran Gardner
Mixed Media - 8" x 8"

Process Statement

As a collage artist, it is sometimes difficult to explain the "process" of my work because it is largely construction, deconstruction, and construction, until the final piece emerges.  I look back at these pieces and sometimes I don't even know how certain effects were achieved.  I paint, draw, sew, tear up, reassemble and disassemble, often many times.  I learned long ago that the sewing machine is a painting and drawing tool and it will act very much like the more traditional methods of painting and drawing.  I have piles of sewn pieces, painted and drawn pieces, paper fragments, and found fabrics, which are worked and reworked until they find their place in a completed work.  Important in my most recent work is the integration of other artists "gifts."  This can be anything another artist might discard, from the tape used to mark off the edges of a painting, to the canvas discards torn from the edges when stretching a work, I'll take any gift.  When I incorporate another artist's discarded materials, I consider these a sort of collaboration, a way of having a conversation with that artist.  I have also used the work of anonymous artists as well.  Printed, mass produced fabrics are an obvious example, but also items found at vintage shops - embroidered linens and tourist market dish towels are two examples that I've used to create a conversation between my voice and theirs.  Once completed, the collage is mounted onto, or recessed into, wooden cradled panels.  My pieces are small and I have become increasingly interested in how they speak to one another in multiples, from 3 or 6 that have a relationship, to an entire wall full.

Mark Leaving - Tapestry - Fran Gardner
Mixed Media - 8" x 8"

I ask Fran to discuss one piece in depth.  Fran says, " I chose to discuss this piece in depth because it is one that is leading me to my next series.  What I really like about this piece is the integration of mark, stitch and design.  It blurs the boundaries between fine art and textile art.  It uses the materials of "fine" but acts like "textile".  It has a strong feel of upholstery textiles and I REALLY enjoy that about this piece.

The similarities between thread painting and traditional painting are as notable as the differences; differences I know well since I also paint and draw.  Both traditional painting and thread painting involve application of color to ground.  Both deal with surface quality.  Both are presented as objects that are attached to walls.  Traditional painting is a respected, historically sound art form practiced by artists.  Stitchery, in our culture, is encased in stereotype -- utilitarian, decorative, and primarily the task of women, through as fiber artists you and I both know there is a rich contribution to the field by both men and women (Jim Arendt is a great example in our own neighborhood.)

So the title, Tapestry, addresses and directly confronts the art and the craft of this type of work.  This piece in particular honors the decorative nature of utilitarian fabrics but also has presence in the "fine" arts.. I have explored this in several other pieces in this series, but my next pieces will take this further, looking into decorative textiles and the blurred line between art and craft.

I also asked Fran how she began to use fabric and sewing in her work.  Her reply was: "I've always been interested in fabric and stitchery since I was a child.  I sewed with one grandmother and painted with the other.  For me there was just always a connection between the two as creative processes.  Any canvas painter is also using fabric in their work, right?  Any stitcher is using color and texture.  It is really simple a matter of creating, and materials are a vehicle." 

Mark Leaving. Abacus - Fran Gardner
Mixed Media - 8" x 8"

Fran Gardner

Thank you Fran!


Thank you for spending time at
studio 24-7!
I love hearing from you
and welcome your comments....
Commenting is Always FREE!!!


  1. What amazing work Fran does! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks you Connie. I loved her statement of the relationship of stitching to drawing and painting. I'm sure you relate.