FROM THE STUDIO
"Illuminations," the title of Ellen
Frank's one-woman exhibit at Renee Fotouhi Fine Art East, is a
many-aspected metaphor for her universe of meanings: poetic, philosophic,
spiritual, and mystical. It refers as well to the literal nature
of her most eye-catching and fastidiously manipulated materials,
copper and gold leaf.
Hers is certainly a diligent and impressive
craft, in the tradition of the early medieval artists who painted
with gold to capture light and holiness on their canvases, as
well as of the monks who did the illuminated manuscripts.
Her multitude of meanings, applied with great
skill on linen canvas and handmade paper, are fueled by the flashes
of insight, revelation, and epiphany vested in her abundant language,
both written and spoken.
She displays the gifts of the poet, the intellect
of the philosopher, the scholarship of the art historian and mythologist,
and the mystical messages of the born medium in touch with the
wind, the light, the accident, the dream, and all coincidence,
together with the skills of the specialist in antique finish and
the old fresco look.
Artist And Medium
The scale goes from monumental, with eternal
biblical, classical, and mythic themes, to an intimate size. The
massive "A Gate of Paradise" was inspired by Ghiberti's
doors ("Gates of Paradise") in Florence, on which the
great Renaissance sculptor set the Old Testament story of Isaac
in a series of bronze panels.
In a similar approach to her narrative of the
history of culture as well as that of her own life, Ms. Frank's
"Illuminations" are done as a series of panels.
They take in a lot of territory between the
material object of art and the rest -- the written and spoken
language of words, the fortuitous visitation of spiritual forces
by which the artist has been chosen as a kind of seer, prophet,
and medium, possessed of magic powers which she passes on through
Power To The Beautiful
She spans a considerable vista from the archaic
to the contemporary, from ancient Celtic and Persian to Samuel
Beckett and Merce Cunningham.
Men and women in classically draped robes are
seen under a transparent layer of nude dancers in modern dance
positions. Always under the glitter there is the gold of meaning
and significance, perhaps a little more weight than a work of
art should be expected to carry.
All the more power to the beautiful. The contrivances
of the artist who seeks to fill the object with importance and
an imagery that penetrates time, both in front and at the back,
certainly gives her enough rope -- more than enough -- with which
to hang herself, in any medium she likes. It's all in the risk
of a game called the pursuit of art.
The exhibit concludes Jan. 15.