Her art includes stunning 3D origami sculptures, formed by folding paper.
Read on to hear Francene’s story of her influences, artistic motivations, inspirations, and promotional advice.
Please tell us about your background as an artist.
My first art exhibits were held in my mother’s kitchen. Her patronage was invaluable and carried me through to my art studies at Brooklyn College, N.Y. I obtained a B.A. fine arts in 1966 and a M.A. Art Ed. in 1969. My Brooklyn College art instructors Philip Pearlstein, Ad Reinhardt, Murray Israel, and Albert Terris, significantly influenced my love of color, form, and design. However, my love of sharing art brought me to teaching art at the middle school level for five years in NYC. Later, after raising my three children, I continued to teach art in Florida for ten years. These art students were my greatest teachers. Many of my Florida students were new to our country, and often shared their multi-cultural artistic experiences. The discovery of Chinese Zhe Zhi modular paper folding was such a cultural experience taught to me by one of my art students. Working in this unique paper medium allows me to create my own sculptural forms and give a singular voice to the unity of many.
What is your earliest memory of creating art?
My earliest memories of creating art are at the age of 5 or 6 forming a small clay elephant. Since my mother’s kitchen served as my gallery and studio, the refrigerator naturally served as a gallery wall and display case for chilled elephants.
Every medium of art was explored from that moment on in that setting. There is nothing greater than having your artistic communications received, understood, valued and shared.
Who inspired you to create modular origami sculptures?
The ancient Chinese modular paper folding technique “Zhe Zhi” was introduced to the west for the very first time in 1993. That is when Chinese immigrant artists were captured off the ship, “The Golden Venture." The unique paper folk art they created while in an American prison served as my inspiration to explore this medium. The paper sculpture I now create attempts to honor these immigrants’ struggle for freedom. My art reflects the fragility and the strength of both paper and the universal struggle for freedom. “We entrust our dreams to the fragility of paper…” said a Chinese immigrant
Who influenced you the most for this Chinese modular paper folding style?
My main art influences have been culled from my art instructors at Brooklyn College, NYC. Philip Pearlstein - form, Ad Reinhardt - color, Murray Israel-detail and composition, and Albert Terris - texture and the architectural possibilities of sculptural mediums.
How would you categorize your abstract paper folding technique?
My abstract sculptural style is based on revealing the dynamic lines of various organic forms including plant life, ocean life, and birds. Natural forms allow me to explore their architecture, as well as their hidden mathematical beauty. I use multiple folded pieces of paper to do this. Each folded paper unit becomes a point that creates the topology of changing planes. The original Chinese paper folding technique I use is called Zhe Zhi. This type of folk art is modular in nature. However, I use it as a fine art sculptural medium; my work contains many more folded pieces of paper than the original Chinese folk art. When creating abstract paper sculpture I use as many as 6500 pieces of folded color acid-free paper, bonded with acid-free glue. Creating abstract contemporary sculpture from flat paper is a challenge that consistently reveals the architectural power of paper.
What are the primary themes of your origami art?
As a resident of Florida, I am keenly aware of natural settings. Ocean life has revealed the most interesting forms for my exploration and interpretation into paper sculpture. Immediately after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I created the "Three Sentinels."
I had seen oil creeping up the marsh grass stalks and envisioned the last three blades of grass left to watch, finally fading away.
What offline ways have you used to promote your modular paper sculptures?
My art has been seen and juried in to multiple venues in South Florida such as, galleries, museums, and outdoor art exhibits. And, I lecture to groups about my paper sculpture art medium. I select exhibits by the quality of the juror. Google is a wonderful window into the juror’s mind set and experience. I also distribute business cards and brochures.
In order to market my work, I am a juried member of the Artist Guild associated with the Boca Raton Museum of Art; a community artists group, Women in the Visual Arts, raising funds for art education for local high schools and women college graduate art students; I am a member of the ISC, the International Sculpture Center; I was selected to be published in “Best of World Wide Sculpture,2011”
Care to share with us what you do to promote your origami sculptures online?:
I promote my art on my own web site and many local, national, and international website galleries that jury to display my art. List serves that come into my email box inform me of opportunities to exhibit outside of my local area.
Face Book is excellent for info about exhibition calls for art at local galleries; Linked In and Twitter are great for networking and keeping followers up to date.
YOU… in three words..
Artistically Aware Woman
Do you have any helpful advice for emerging artists?
Join a few local professional artist groups. Become art web wise. Enter quality art exhibits. Learn about art history and theory to improve your own work. Look at contemporary art. Love what you are creating. Share it with the world. Listen for feedback.
Say something. Don’t stop till you drop.
We would like to congratulate Francene Levinson for being selected for our artist interview.
You may view more of her beautiful 3D Origami paper sculptures at FranceneLevinson.com
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