Through my artwork I explore themes related to environment, nature, pattern and place. My work begins with a deeply felt connection to the natural world and rises from my exploration of it. The subject matter documents my time spent walking in woods and wetlands, in zoos, conservatories and gardens, through special collections and my dusty favorite, the University of Wisconsin taxidermy archive. The rotting apples come from an orchard in High Falls, NY, the toad from a nature preserve near the Mall of America. Yellow Lady Slippers were sighted along the Ice Age Trail, pink ones on the Appalachian eleven years earlier. This photographic journal-keeping forms a personal, arbitrary, asymmetrical time chart that is deeply resonant for me. A witness to haphazard wonders, the activity of taking snapshots illuminates my position within the natural world while documenting changing evidence of the ordinary and the astonishing. This is key to my understanding of what it means to be alive and of this world.
Although the source of my work is a restless, wandering discipline, the final results are fabricated constructions. Densely ornamental, the work refers to Britain’s Aesthetic Movement, early Dutch still life painting and natural history dioramas. It draws on past experiences designing textiles and painting opera scenery.
I present work in several diverse ways: as solitary repeating patterns, as stand-alone tapestry-like designs that sometimes have an implied narrative, as still life and as floor to ceiling sections, or “specimen panels,” which combine repeating patterns with “trompe l’oeil” mouldings, borders and friezes.
These are all formal ways of summarizing my informal, daily observations of drumlins and damselflies. Their densely elaborate surfaces feature observations of both the living and the dead. My artwork observes the “wildness” in nature even while it is taming it with patterning and composition. Natural is imposed on nature, time is permanently suspended. Flowers in a state of perfection need not conform to time or season.
It is my purpose to draw the viewer into a local world as it hasn’t been seen before, to create a context for connection—charged with wonder—richly complex while being inclusive and accessible.
Lisa A. Frank, 2017
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