Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Evening with Lurlynn Franklin by Leslie Barker

A couple of weeks ago I ran into Carl Moore at the Caritas Village. I mentioned that I like to write and Carl asked me if I would be interested in writing for the Caritas Village Arts Blog. Because the Caritas Village is one of my favorite places on the planet and I have a hard time saying no to anything arts related, I quickly said “yes.”

My first blog assignment was to interview Lurlynn Franklin about her exhibit, Colored Cartoons in Undeniable Blackness.  The opening reception for the exhibit was Friday, September 14, and I rushed there after work to meet Lurlynn and check out the art. The day had been a whirlwind and I think I subconsciously expected my interview/exhibit experience to be the same. I was wrong.\

As soon as I walked into The Caritas Village, I was captured by the striking story quilts hanging in the gallery. The already colorful room exploded with even more vibrancy than usual. As if that was not enough to slow me down, I then introduced myself to Lurlynn Franklin. Her calm and incredibly strong presence told me immediately that this woman is someone I wanted to know. She graciously took the time to talk with me about her work and act as my personal tour guide on a journey through the exhibit.

Our conversation began with Lurlynn discussing her various styles of artistic expression. The pieces hanging on the walls before us are a stylistic departure from her previous work. She explained, “This series - the style of it is nothing like the other work that I have. The theme is Colored Cartoons in Undeniable Blackness. It’s focusing on what people consider stereotypical black life, but there is a larger element of truth in that. I am balancing both of those and I’m doing it in a really humorous way.” Lurlynn’s paintings prove that people can handle tough subjects much better when you serve it to them with a big helping of humor. She certainly tackles some of the toughest of subjects. From teenage pregnancy to social justice, Colored Cartoons fearlessly tackles current issues with warmth, bright colors, and sharp wit.

My personal favorite of the story quilts is “Po Babee Lost in the Sixties.” In the painting, a mother and her child in a brightly colored room, wearing clothes that scream of the 1960’s, with and over-sized hand holding up a peace sign, and a lava lamp on the floor. Behind them is a book shelf, full from top to bottom with books by writers such as Malcolm X and Richard Wright. Lurlynn expresses that this was one of the most autobiographical pieces in the collection, and it is the bookshelf that makes it so. The books represent the journey through her own life, each one signifying a different phase or era. The bottom of the shelf, representing the most recent years, is overflowing onto the floor with books by world-changers, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition to the beautiful story quilts, poems hang on the wall as well. Lurlynn has been writing as long as she can remember and accompanies her paintings with words, giving the exhibit a deeper level of wisdom and completion. Those of us who were there for the opening reception were lucky enough to here her read the poems herself.

Lurlynn Franklin is an artist with an incredibly fascinating point of view. It was refreshing and inspiring to speak with an artist with such passion and conviction. Every pattern, stitch, color, line and curve on her paintings is intentional and filled with purpose. I am grateful for the time she spent with me and that light that she sheds into dark corners and onto difficult subjects.

Do not miss Colored Cartoons in Undeniable Blackness by Lurlynn Franklin. The exhibit will be in the Hope Gallery at the Caritas Village through October 27.