MAKERS: Grace Frank
“I like making art that makes people laugh,” says Grace Frank in her Lakewood studio, as I’m contemplating a painting of an ice cream cone lounging on a car. It’s great. Then she explains that it was a gift for her boyfriend, and is a self-portrait – inspired by their frequent trips to get ice cream. Even better.
Frank has shown her paintings at Canopy, and that’s where I fell in love with her whimsical world of anthropomorphized sandwiches and animals. Self-taught, Frank explains that humor is an important part of her work: “Most of my paintings come from some kind of pun. If I hear a funny phrase or think of something goofy usually the picture pops into my head. Once my friend was talking about a ‘lone sandwich’ and I immediately thought of a sandwich dressed as the Lone Ranger.” And why not?
Frank also creates stunning paper masks that are painstakingly made by cutting and pasting craft paper by hand. Otherworldly animals and bright colors call to mind myriad references – piñata, masquerades, ceremonial objects, and childhood parties. Still residing squarely in her world of whimsy, these masks don’t actually operate as masks – with no eye-holes, they’re more like decorative objects (Frank likes that they’re “a little creepy”, so do I). And by hanging them on the wall in exhibitions, Frank allows us that kind of contemplation (and trust me, the urge to touch them, or try them on, is almost overwhelming).
She is currently working on a series of paper masks and cut-paper collages for an upcoming show at 3204 Studios opening June 9, a (relatively) new upstart gallery on Lorain Avenue. Loosely affiliated with Canopy, their neighbor down the street, 3204 Studios shows up-and-coming artists such as Jacqueline Bon, Juliana Kokolari, and Katy Kosman.
Frank is making new masks for the occasion, such as her own colorful take on the Creature from the Black Lagoon, this time actually placed in a frame, further emphasizing that this is an art object to be looked at, but not used. She’s even included LED lights inside the frame to make it appear as if it is submerged under the sea.
She also makes cut-paper 2-D collages – here’s one from a wrestling-themed art show last year.
My favorite of her new collages is definitely her homage to Van Gogh’s sunflowers, made entirely of tiny pieces of cut paper.
I ask about her technique, and process more generally, but Frank takes a pretty casual approach to art-making, which entirely matches her personality. She gets an idea in her head, and then makes it happen. “It is inspiring when people have a strange idea and will put it together however haphazardly just to see it come to be. That excites me.”