Artist Amy Frank is the winner of WPSU’s Art for the Airwaves Contest. She is also owner and founder of The Makery in State College. She won the contest with a collage painting of a stylized, Pennsylvania landscape titled “The Road Home.”
“It’s a long country road that’s kind of ebbing and flowing over several hills,” Frank says, “with kind of a patchwork field. It’s very candy-colored. It’s very bright, and very cheerful. So it doesn’t look like a traditional landscape. It’s kind of like a traditional landscape meets a candy store.”
She says the painting was inspired by a drive home from Pittsburgh to State College with her family at Christmastime.
“I created this painting in the depths of winter,” Frank says. “So that might be what informed the color choices. But also I just really believe in my heart we’re just so lucky to live here. This is such a vibrant, beautiful, verdant – not only natural space to be, but also just the community.”
So Frank is expressing her joy in those bright colors. But not all the colors in the work come from paint. Some of the rolling hills in the landscape are actually made from fabric.
“Yeah. Those are actual fabric pieces of quilts from central Pennsylvania that have kind of seen their lifetime as quilts,” she says. “But I held onto them, because their story wasn’t over yet. So we added them to this. And I think they work beautifully.”
Although she works mostly in painting and collage now, Franks first foray into art was with fabric: as a young child, sewing, with her grandmother.
“She lived in our house,” Frank explains. “And I was just so enamored with all of her craft supplies. Really, my genre of choice for the first 30 years of my life was fabric.”
Frank sold some of her artwork at a boutique in Boalsburg. And when someone there asked her to teach a child to sew, she started teaching in the attic of that boutique. And that eventually led to her founding The Makery in downtown State College.
“At The Makery,” Frank says, “we specialize in creative classes and parties and events. We have 17 different instructors, in everything from floral design to sewing, knitting, photography, painting and drawing, pottery, creative writing.”
The Makery is a vast space, full of tables, chairs and loads of art supplies. Her original painting of “The Road Home” hangs here, on a brick wall above a sewing machine, among many other colorful pieces of artwork.
But as we visit Frank’s home studio, she shows me the kind of artwork she most often does now. Not landscapes, she says but portraits of people, using paint and collage.
Frank’s desk faces a window in her studio. A string of small colorful Tibetan prayer flags hangs in front of the window, and there’s a collection of knick-knacks on the window sill.
“And I always light a candle when I’m working,” Frank says. And I have a Sacred Heart statue, and Frida Kahlo – so all of my muses, kind of, that keep me busy while I’m here.”
Frank also keeps a copy of the Bible close by. And a lot of materials for collage. Many of those come from books. Especially maps and music.
Frank shows me one of her other paintings that incorporates collage. This one depicts Harriet Tubman in an outdoor scene, among trees and foliage, carrying a book and a torch.
“But all of the trees are African American spiritual hymns, mostly,” Frank points out.
If you look closely at the green of the trees, you can see traces of music scores showing through the painted colors.
“We Shall Overcome is right here,” she says. “And then her garment is made of pages of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
And Frank has included a quote from Tubman that appears on her clothing. It says “Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want the taste of Freedom keep going.”
Frank’s passion is creating portraits of women who are changing the world for the better.
“Famous women and some women that I just know personally, that I call ‘light bringers,’” she says. “So people that, in their own way, have really brought light into a dark place somewhere in the world. But all of those portraits are made up of pieces from those women’s lives. Because I feel that all of us are so layered and intricate and detailed in ways that nobody really ever knows. But if we can gather a bunch of different pieces and parts of those people and kind of pull it together to kind of make a portrait of them - to me that’s the most telling portrait there is, right?"
It’s hard to argue with that.
The painting titled “The Road Home” is available as a limited edition signed, numbered poster print, suitable for framing. It is offered as a thank you gift for a $120 contribution to support WPSU-FM.