Becky Franco, 2019 artist-in-residence at Deering Estate, will be making a return to Summer in the form of a new exhibition. From June 17 to August 31, the Estate will showcase several new works by Miami artists Becky Franco and Monia Meluzzi as part of their Stone House as Subject exhibition. Franco’s famous great realist paintings will be exhibited in the Great Hall.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Stone House, which prompted Franco to create works that meditate on the internal and external intricacies of the Stone House and its historical significance in South Florida.
Franco comes from an eclectic background. Born in Havana, Cuba, Franco emigrated to the United States in 1961 and eventually earned a BFA from the Pratt Institute in 1974. By the 1970s, the Photo Realist movement was growing and Franco quickly became interested. It was at that moment that he realized he wanted to paint on a large scale, portraying various everyday experiences. Her work led her into the field of outdoor advertising, where she became the first female billboard artist to join the Sign and Pictorial Display Union. Franco continued to break boundaries by working for the largest outdoor advertising company of the time, Foster and Kleiser. This experience and her attention to detail have been attributed to her success as an independent art professional who paints large murals for homes and institutions.
Deering Estate has named Becky Franco as one of their artists in residence as part of their 2019-2020 cohorts. Her time at the Estate was cut short due to the pandemic, but that didn’t stop Franco from continuing to paint and demonstrate her talent.
Franco’s specific series of paintings entitled Observed it is part of his project completed during his residency at the Estate. Her background in realism led her to clearly portray the Stone House in all its glory and elegance. Her work also has a sense of intimacy and affection due to her connection to the site. You have spent long hours observing the interior of the Estate to capture the many details and features of the Stone House, paying particular attention to the details of the Great Hall. Using a variety of techniques and unexpected angles to pay attention to its particular aesthetic.
Here is an interview with Becky Franco, in which she discusses her project, her career and her time as an artist in residence at Deering Estate:
Q: What do you hope to convey with your new project, Observed?
A: The Deering Artist Residency has been a tremendous opportunity for me in many ways. I’m a transplant from New York and it was hard to get exposure in Miami’s very competitive art world. Being awarded the Deering Artist Residency gave me the break I needed to expose my work and practice to a new audience. The paintings in OBSERVED were created specifically for the Deering Estate to pay attention to the enigmatic beauty of the Grand Hall.
Q: How did you understand that you wanted to be part of the realism movement in art?
A: I was a college student at the Pratt Institute in the 1970s and attended the Whitney Biennial during that time. Billboard artist turned super realist painter James Rosenquist graced the Whitney alongside Chuck Close’s huge super realistic portraits and Richard Este’s detailed New York City street scenes, where they were so popular. When I saw that exhibit, I realized that I had to hone my skills to join this movement. My paintings during Pratt moved in the direction of hyperrealism leading me to look for work in the billboard industry.
Q: As a female artist who pushes boundaries in male-dominated careers, what’s the most important piece of advice you’ve learned?
A: I had never noticed this at the age of 22, I had just graduated from Pratt. What a great opportunity to be hired in the outdoor advertising industry of billboard painting. I didn’t realize that I would become the first female artist to prove that a woman could paint those giant billboards and that I would become the first woman to be invited to join the Union. I was so young and so inexperienced in how to interact with my male colleagues. Many became my mentors and taught me everything they knew to help me succeed and hone my skills. However, some became jealous that I was good enough to work alongside them. After a while the foreman gave me the most difficult billboards to execute, which for me was really an honor.
Q: How has your time as a Deering Estate Artist in Residence shaped your artistic journey and your skills?
A: My Artist Residency was one without a physical studio at The Deering Estate. It was a remote project residency, and it was during COVID. The residency allowed me to work in my home studio, but the COVID restrictions and climate of utter fear really hit me. I wish I had attended more Deering events, but the fear of contracting COVID was so strong that I mostly stayed at home and turned a little blue. It was quite difficult to muster the strength and enthusiasm to enter my studio to work on my paintings. The biggest motivation was my work and having won this prestigious residency and the big boost I felt it would give to my career and that kept me going. It was a tough struggle to start each new painting. But as the paintings started to take shape and the excitement of each finished work became my motivation to walk into my studio and paint some more. The Deering Estate Artist Residency really shaped my artistic journey and gave me the motivation to force myself into my studio despite feelings of ambivalence and this inspired me to produce more work.
The estate will host an evening reception for the exhibition on Friday 17 June to honor the opening of the Stone House as a subject exhibit. For tickets for the event click the link here: 354083050937? _Ga = 2.2388592.1752265193.1655084240-739459655.1646273885. For more information on Franco and his wide range of works, visit his website via the link here:
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