Sherie' Franssen

Driving Into the Ocean
December 11, 2008 — January 31, 2009

High Water, 2008 I Oil on Canvas I 81 x 77 inches
High Water, 2008 I Oil on Canvas I 81 x 77 inches

With each painting, Franssen’s surroundings become irrelevant and the process becomes experimental.  She avoids defining the work as figurative or abstract, pushing one against the other and creating new forms. 

For Franssen’s upcoming exhibit we will have a catalog featuring her work.  In the catalog’s essay Jonathan Keats wrote:  “While studying art at California State University–Long Beach, Sherie' Franssen often sketched the deceased. The dozens of drawings she produced, working for hours in the biology department's air-conditioned dissection room, taught her about the human form, yet she learned much more by studying what the cadavers lacked. The vitality of life, vigorously lived, became her consuming subject as she advanced from pencil-and-paper to oil-on-canvas. 

The human figure is often only glancingly visible in Franssen's current paintings, fleetingly exposed in the pinkness of her fleshtones or the biomorphic contours of her brushstrokes. In the tradition of her favorite 20th Century painters – Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon – she can evoke the corporeal without direct anatomical reference: A painting such as "There Have To Be Problems Because That Makes It Interesting" is unabashedly carnal, yet not in the least illustrational.

How Franssen achieves this feat is suggested by the painting's title (a quote from Warren Beatty describing his epic struggle to produce the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde). Franssen approaches each new painting looking for trouble.  She has no notion of the finished composition. Applying her pigments in broad strokes to vast canvases, she works ten hours at a stretch, often covering the same surface fifty or one hundred times over a period of weeks. Figures emerge and are consumed, or perhaps, as in "One Way of Putting the Same Thing", they linger, teetering on the edge of abstraction. These pictorial jostlings animate her paintings. The human forms that sometimes appear in Franssen's art are active participants in her process of creation. They present her with interesting problems. Franssen's struggles with them are physical as much as they are emotional. Her canvases come alive with the exertion.

Of course we're not with her in the studio to witness this intensive activity. What we perceive is the layered record of her former relationship with the painting. And because we come into the picture only after the fact, the evidence we see is generally less than straightforward. Two viewers may come to radically different conclusions. For instance, the painting "Three Sweethearts", exhibited in Franssen's last Dolby-Chadwick show in 2006, has been described by one critic as depicting "two hazily rendered bodies and one explicit one that resembles a primate in the throes of agony", while another critic, writing for a competing newspaper, has proclaimed that the painting looks like "a pastoral landscape: blue sky, green grasses, yellow blocks of flowers. And yet in the thicket lies a dead pig." 

Neither of these hypotheses is definitive. Neither can be proven or dismissed. And this is why Franssen's paintings so successfully hold our attention. Even after she's applied the last stroke of pigment, they continue to make and unmake themselves before our eyes. Implicating us, they get us into trouble. If the creative problems are what make them interesting in the first place, the interpretive problems are what sustain their interest. We're drawn to live with Franssen's paintings because she's lived in them, and left them to us without imposing perfect resolution.”

Sherie’ Franssen received her BFA in Drawing and Painting from California State University.  Franssen has exhibited at the Carl Berg Gallery, Laguna Art Museum and the San Diego Art Institute.  She has also been featured in New American Paintings, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and the LA Weekly.