The cultural keepsakes of Francie Bishop Good
By Rachel Galvin
Something is askew, uncomfortable, like a pendulum that has swung to one side and longs to return to the other. Like stopped time, a moment encapsulated by Francie Bishop Good is never the same again. Bare reality was never so vulnerable yet colored with cultural undertones, steeped in societal underpinnings. Her camera is not what it seems, not a mere vehicle for an aesthetic delivery, but a collection module. Her trophies hang on the stark white walls of her studio space on 2nd Avenue hidden in the urban setting of Fort Lauderdale.
The oversized prints are washed with stunning colors – greens, purples, yellows. The application of paint is the newest technique she has employed. Each block of color seems random, yet fixed, carefully masking pieces of the photograph that lies beneath, enhanced by a scribble or line. Every square print contains a world unto itself, a peek into a moment that was never supposed to be noticed, making the onlooker the casual voyeur. Each figure seems trapped, confined in their own culture; unable to escape the bounds of frame, yet invites the onlooker to see through their eyes, to understand what they have been through and to know their sphere of influence.
It is enticing how engaging a half-blurred photo of a mother and child can be, how seeing their lives can so affect the lives of those who see it, begging the question, who has influenced them to be who they are in that world. These are the types of queries that artist Francie Bishop Good makes on a regular basis and why she delved so deeply into photography.
For Francie, it began, as art often does, on the home front. Born in Allentown, PA, she was always the one taking the family photographs. Seeing Francie's whimsical creativity blossoming, her parents encouraged her artistic expression.
“I was a child of the 50s,” she said. “… go a in corner and draw, no on would have to deal with you. I always had a big imagination …”
Her mother was an interior designer, perhaps that subconsciously influenced her artistic yearnings, but it was her niece, Carly, that was her first muse. The first picture taken of her was when she was about 7 years old.
“She was sitting in front of the TV and there was a big Viagra ad. I thought 'How great,'” said Francie, noting the sharp contrast between innocence and the profane. “It was very contemporary, the innocence of a young girl, society's implications.”
It would be the beginning of a theme that would carry her career for years, capturing photos of Carly juxtaposed with an ironic element or something that spoke about society, especially the viewpoint of women. It was an important message for Francie, who considers herself a feminist artist. Next to her studio is a showcase of work from the Girls' Collection, of which she is part. At the time of the interview, Dina Mittrani curated the show entitled “Reframing the Feminine: Photography from the collection of Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz.”
She sees her work as a “vehicle for my own identity,” adding, “with all your photographs, portraits, they are really you.”
After 10 years of watching Carly bloom into a young adult (now she is 21), she “hit the wall as an artist.” That is when the idea of painting on the photograph came to her. That was about three years ago.
“Painting was a breath of fresh air,” she said.
The works on her wall include photos of women at the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center in Pembroke Pines with their children. Raw visions of life experience, these photos capture the real lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society. They reflect courage and pain, resilience and fatigue, the everyday ying yang of a troubled existence, the hope of an unfettered day, a more peaceful tomorrow. In the midst of the mundane, love thrives even in the most difficult of circumstances. The ability to nurture despite any obstacles reflects an openness of heart, and that softness among the rough patches is what draws the viewer into these portraits.
“They love it when I take their picture,” said Francie. “The kids say 'the picture lady is here.' I give them the pictures.”
Some of her photographs went into a book and the proceeds benefited the center.
Also on her walls are the people of Cuba – children playing, people walking, unaware of Francie's keen lens upon them. The magic in creating such distinct viewpoints comes from the way in which she takes the photos. She shoots from the hip.
“If you look at people through the lens, they pose. By shooting from the hip, people let down their guard and it is more beautiful,” she said.
Francie loves different cultures, saying “art bridges the gap between cultures; it brings everything together.” She was entranced by Cuba's stark contrasts.
“It is so close and yet a world away. I went there with a group of photographers in January. But I can't take photos with a group, so I went off alone. I went with an open mind. I had just gotten back from New York and New York seemed dull [in comparison]. The colors, the people … so different. The people were wonderful. I was attracted to all these homeless dogs. I enjoyed looking at the world from their perspective. And the intense light there … the pinks and turquoises, the buildings … and the people wear all these bright colors. Many of the people have never left Cuba. They didn't believe me when I told them all the buildings in the U.S. are beige.”
She added, “I love being in the moment … and just picking up the camera. You have to be completely present.”
Francie's work has been displayed in countless galleries and museums. In addition, she is very active in the artistic community, working with the Museum of Art, Young At Art Children’s Museum and other organizations. But, the thing she is most proud of is being a founding member of Funding Arts Broward, a grant giving organization comprised of all volunteers, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year.
Good was just involved in the Art Walk with the Third Street Art District with other local artists. Her work can be seen at the Annie Wharton Gallery in LA and also at the David Castillo Gallery in Miami, 2234 NW 2nd Ave.
She hopes her passion is contagious and that her efforts and her personal artwork will help “people care more about art.”
To see some more of Francie's work, visit www.franciebishopgood.com.