CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY | By JOANNA TEBBS YOUNG
Red eyes stare out from white faces, their red mouths open as if singing, talking, screaming, or in one scene, possibly on the brink of orgasm. These are just some of the characters in Fran Bull’s latest art project: Stations. Alluding to the classical Stations of the Cross, the fourteen scenes of people in bed are in the style of high relief of Greek or Roman sculptures. Using muslin, plaster, paint and other media, Bull has created what she calls “an intuitive work” of the “places we stop, where we have private, internal, meditative, fearful experiences.”
Bull, a Brandon resident since 2000, has lived and worked as a professional artist for more than 45 years. Describing herself as a “serious kid” who “drew obsessively” and made things while telling stories in her head about the art she was creating, she feels her current work in plaster, after years as a highly successful internationally selling watercolor “photo realist” in New York City, has brought her full circle. “It’s a wonderful feeling to make things with your hands; you feel like a god.”
Her early classes at an art museum in her hometown near Newark, New Jersey, in which she was enrolled every semester and summer from 8 to 15 years old, gave her experience in every medium. She doesn’t identify with one medium. “It depends on what medium will carry what I want to express,” she says.
First coming to Vermont to pursue a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Bennington College, where she was “interested in everything,” she went on to get a second degree in textile design, and then a master’s degree in art and arts education from New York University, where she was teaching.
After 14 years painting and showing and selling works which she describes as being like needlepoint in their minute detail, in the Louis Meisel Gallery, Bull realized it was “not who I am. I was evolving.”
In the 1980s, she left the gallery hoping, as she says, to “break through to my authentic artist self” in Ireland. But it didn’t work as she had hoped. “You can’t force the muse!” Bull says. But huddled in her thatched cottage by the gray sea, she began to do some “horrible” little ink drawings while reading the Jungian scholar Marion Woodman’s books. “I was valuing where the art wanted to go, it was less directed, and I knew what I had to pursue. This was the door I had to walk through,” she says.
She went on to pursue other art forms and projects, including etchings — of which she has a book coming out in Barcelona — and maintained studios in New York City, New Jersey and, eventually, Vermont. Choosing Vermont for the beauty she recalled from her undergrad days in Bennington, Brandon found her, she says. Discovering only after she moved that it had an energetic artist community, it was there she ran Gallery in the Field from 2005 to 2011. “There is a vibrancy here not found in New York,” she says.
“When people see my art, I want them to be inspired to make their own,” Bull says. “I don’t want there to be a divide.”
Speaking about the importance of art to a community, Bull says it is “a sense of creating an art community that honors the community itself, providing them places to go and conversations to have. A community is a gift to the art and art a gift to the community. And everyone is invited.”
CHECK IT OUT
Fran Bull’s “Stations”
Chaffee Downtown and Castleton Downtown Gallery Sept. 24 to Oct. 25
Opening Reception: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26
Artist Talk: Wednesday, October 15, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at The Paramount Theatre