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Art HERstory: Helen Frankenthaler

Art HERstory: Helen Frankenthaler

As an avid reader I have an obsession with figuring things out. I hate when a story has a definite ending. I want something to be left to personal interpretation. I want to be left puzzled and a tad bit frustrated. That love for the open-ended carries over into my choices in art as well. Abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler’s (1928 – ) creations do just that. There aren’t any defined shapes in her works. They’re just color poetically placed on a canvas with an underlying theme left for the viewer to interpret.

'The Bay' (1963). My absolute favorite Frankenthaler original. I LIVE for this purple!

Helen is a New York City born and bred artist. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Bennington College in Vermont before relocating back to NYC to get her career started. In 1950 she met art critic Clement Greenberg. He turned out to be the open window that led to the house of the big leagues. Clement introduced Helen to the movers and shakers of NYC avant-garde art. Taking inspiration from those before her, specifically Jackson Pollock, Helen began to develop an expressionist style all her own.

'Aerie' (2009). The smoky background of this painting really makes the colors pop!

The big break came in 1952 with the exhibition of her piece ‘Mountains and Sea.’ The massive 7 x 10 foot painting looks like its done with watercolors. Nope. It is actually oil paints on an unprepared canvas. The diluted look of the paints is achieved because the naked canvas absorbs the majority of the color in the oil paints. Pretty cool huh?

'Japanese Maple' (2005). The color alone is enough to give this painting a second look. OMG!

Helen, now 82, is still creating in her Connecticut home.  Some people refer to her as ‘the country’s most prominent living female artist.’ It makes sense to me. Her work is still relevant and there are still retrospective exhibitions to honor the contribution she has made to the art world.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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