To be Franck - by Hugo Ares. Published in Bold Magazine

Tue, 18 Jun 2013

It’s a hot, humid summer day in New York City, and Franck de las Mercedes is in his chaotic, creative universe: a small studio near the Hudson River. But within the boundaries of the chaos, there is some order. “I do not have a set schedule, but I am very disciplined in that I paint or do something creative everyday,” says the 39-year-old artist. “I have a really strange sleep pattern so I can be up at 3 a.m. or 7 a.m. The first thing I do after I wake up is write a whole page of whatever comes to mind at the moment…and then trash it.”

Franck arrived in New York with his family in the 80s, at the beginning of the conflict in Nicaragua. Twenty-four years later, the self-taught artist has emerged as one of the country’s most prolific visual artists in recent years. His provocative portraits borrow from the worlds of art, politics and pop culture, featuring the likes of silver screen icons like Bette Davis and Carmen Miranda, eclectic music legends like Patti Smith, Robert Smith and Queen Latifah, Albert Einstein, Nicaraguan poet Rubén Dario, and journalist Tifani Roberts, Mexican Ambassador Amado Nervo, and Cuban national hero Jose Marti.

“These personalities are a chronology of my life, the people whom I have been exposed to since childhood, the idols my mother used to who watched on television. There are portraits that I do for the expression and gestures of the face or something in the eyes, as in the case of Edith Piaf. I’m not a fan of hers, but when I saw the face of trouble looking at the sky I said I have to rethink the image in paint.”
Simultaneously symbolic, explosive and thought provoking, the unique attributes of each pop culture personality come to life with each stroke of Franck’s brush. Adding his own vision of the personality, he uses different techniques and textures. He says, “In essence, I am an abstract painter and that can be a very spontaneous and emotional work. I call it popstract, as they are an infusion of abstract expressionism and pop art.”

A recent theme in Franck’s art is social justice. His latest project, The Priority Boxes, is a series of public interventions that invite people to reconsider their ability to influence change. The project involves thousands of tiny wrapped packages. Each one is sent to anyone who requests one with messages, such as FRAGILE Contains: Courage, or Love, or Reassurance, or Happiness. Started in 2006, it has since evolved into a mass movement that has been embraced by the media and school and art educators across the globe. Today, he has sent over 10, 400 boxes to 70 countries around the world, as far as the Maldives and Malaysia.

With this project, Franck wants “people to exercise their ability to take initiatives and influence change on a personal direct level. To discuss the fragility and value we give peace, freedom and justice. To make art accessible to people from all walks of life and to make people see the importance of art in our lives as a vehicle of communication and activism.
“We shouldn’t have to wait for world leaders, politicians and famous personalities to gather for peace talks, or summits on a special date once year. We can all take some initiative for peace every day.”
Franck has been exhibited in major galleries, including Daas Gallery (Fort Myer), Zen Dog Gallery (Rhinebeck, NY), White Box Gallery (NYC), Francesca Fine Art & Gallery Arcilesi (NYC), Three Columns Gallery / Mather House Harvard University (Cambridge), Greeley Square Gallery (NYC), and Gallery Bottom Feeders (NYC).

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