Southcoast Artists Index
The Reluctant Artist
The Frank Grace Story
Photography is one of those “things” where you either consider it art; whether most of the time, sometimes or never. Those who believe it is not an art usually point to the camera and say that anyone can take a photo.
They’re absolutely correct! Anyone can. However, not all photographs are art as is true of any other 2D art media.
This “argument” can go on forever. The camera has been around for thousands of years. Look it up! But, photography has only been around since the early nineteenth century.
And, ever since the French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce…
Perfected the process of recording the three-dimensional image of what the camera “sees” on a two-dimensional plane (paper) or surface, photography has become, in no particular order, an artist’s tool or the bane of their existence.
In this instance and for this article I want to focus (puns are sometimes inevitable) on the image produced rather than the tool. The image-maker, in this case, is Frank C. Grace who is as reluctant an artist as you will ever meet.
He says, “I really never set out to be an artist and to be honest I have a very hard time considering myself an artist.” Yet, to look at his work, you wonder if he is insane. Insane for his reluctance or, insane because his images conjure (good word) either a cartoon version of reality on the lighter side or, a surreal and very dark side on the other hand.
Look at his work!
Frank reminds me of the personal battle I still have with my own imagery. I’ve become an abstractionist because it’s safer. My objective, realistic imagery always tended to be dark. I wanted to capture “the moment” either before or after “the moment” and those moments were always born of stuff of Greek drama.
In my case, it wasn’t so much the fear of being too morose (that’s another subject for therapy) but rather how to capture that moment. Frank does that! He does it so well while standing in places we’ve all stood and he makes us wonder what the heck we might have missed.
I’ve heard some refer to what he does as a sort of spirit photography: the stuff of ghost hunting and ghost busting. Even though Frank has some interests in that area, he says, “…I like the technical aspect of it. It must be my scientific background. I pay attention to light, color, how a mood can make people feel different things…”
Not bad for a guy who calls what he does, “…a very passionate hobby that is a borderline obsession.” Frank describes his work as bordering on the surreal or hyper-real. His favorite artist is the surrealist painter Salvador Dali.
Dali believed that “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” He also said, “Instead of stubbornly attempting to use surrealism for purposes of subversion, it is necessary to try to make of surrealism something as solid, complete and classic as the works of museums.”
As for Mr. Grace, what does he want his viewers to learn or think about when they see one of his pieces? “Whatever they get is completely up to the viewer.
I just end up with what looks good to me.
I can honestly say that I don’t ever think about what the viewer will see until I am done. Only then I might think about it.”
Not bad for a self-taught reluctant artist who is humbled by what he does. “I know so very little about the art world. I love art that pushes the boundaries.” He does feel that his fellow Gallery X members are truly his mentors when it comes to the art world.
“That group was the first to have me in as an “artist” and people like Chuck & Sue Hauck, Don Wilkinson, and David Boyce really pushed me to explore exhibiting in galleries. I would have never thought to even attempt that before them. At times I still question what the hell I m doing showing in an art gallery!”
Self-taught and self-inspired he equates, “…the internal inspiration from lucid dreams and listening to my main emotional driver, music. Music artists like Trent Reznor, Jimi Hendrix, Tool, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction are always playing on my computer as I am editing images.”
After checking out Alex Grey, another of Frank’s favorite artists, I discovered something. Frank doesn’t photograph in the conventional sense of outside in but rather inside out. You can see it when he photographs a location that hasn’t been photographed before or, that has been photographed to death and as he relates. “If it hasn’t been photographed before, then I want to share with people the way I see it.”
Mr. Grace, ahem…
The artist usually prints his photos directly on metal, which in a way makes them objects of objects. Yet, he continues to insist that he is not an artist and what he does is not art. “It is what it is. I truly have a very difficult time to call it art.
Photography is easy. If I had to struggle more, then I might have an easier time to call it art.” So then, how does he relate to his success, or does he think he is successful? “When someone is moved looking at one of my images.
Or, when someone likes the images enough to grant me access into a place that usually does not allow any type of photography, (most recently, the Mark Twain house in nearby Hartford, Connecticut) that’s a success.
He’s exhibited at most of the Gallery X shows and, The Postcards from New Bedford show, as well as the Full Circle Shows Parts I and II at Artworks! in New Bedford.
And for your average, ordinary, “I’m not an artist” kind of photographer, he was a finalist in Ron Howard and Canon’s Project Imagin8ion and Imaginat10n in 2011 and 2012!
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This is an updated version of what was one of the first profile articles among many others. It was written in an initial attempt to document the lives and activities of the individuals, both past and present, who represent the cultural and creative community. These are the artists who drove/drive the local creative economy.
Our goal is to document the stories of the contemporary artists among us and those who have passed on either unnoticed or unremembered in a single location or repository.
There are many other stories out there like this one. It is our goal to seek out and find these other stories before they fade from memory.
Written by Ron Fortier in 2012 and posted on the predecessor website to the Artists Index, The South Coast Artist Profiles.