Paintings by Franklin Willis

November 4 - December 13, 2002

  • Reception: Thursday, November 14, 6 - 8 p.m., Gallery Lounge
  • Gallery Talk by Franklin Willis, Thursday, November 14 at 7 p.m. in the Art Gallery

A solo exhibit of oil paintings by Franklin Willis of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Franklin Willis, an associate professor of painting at Northern Arizona University will exhibit a collection of his recent oil paintings. These works reflect how Willis merges his training in the Western art tradition, (such as the German Expressionist movement) with the pictorial heritage of his African-American youth in rural Texas. As a teenager he was greatly influenced by the work of fellow Texan painter Nathan Jones.

Willis’ subject matter ranges from images of streams and cornfields to inanimate objects such as cast-iron skillets, old shoes, and fish, which are used to reflect envisioned thoughts and moods. All of his paintings have a close-up focus of a limited subject matter creating compelling compositions with solid and rich colors. Willis calls this new body of work “figurative abstractions” for he combines representational, universal images with his imagination and dollops of influence from his past work. Willis states, “Because I have no literal human shapes in this new body of work, it becomes symbolic to the astute viewer. The viewer becomes a critic and interprets the work’s subject matter relative to their own experience.” His vigorous brush strokes, thick paint application, vibrant colors, and interesting cropping are holdovers from the abstract works he has done in the past.

Franklin Willis received his BFA from Corpus Christi Stat University and his MFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Willi’s long list of exhibitions include a solo show at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts in Texas, and the “New Millennium” exhibition a two-year traveling exhibition coordinated by the Arizona Commission for the Arts.

We felt that Franklin Willis’ expressive and gestural style would provide an appropriate backdrop for allowing area high school students to experiment with expressive drawing materials. The Annual High School Art Seminar is set for November 15 and will correspond with the Franklin Willis solo exhibit.