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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Artist Fran Forman ’67 showcased around the world

Published: September 21, 2012
Section: Features

Receiving recognition for her unique artistic compositions, Fran Forman ’67 was recently granted the prestigious honor of being selected as one of 30 artists to have her work displayed in a traveling exhibition that is set to reach Beijing and Shanghai, in addition to other regions across the globe.

Forman pursues her artistic vision not merely for the aesthetic quality of each piece but in hopes of evoking thought provoking messages that are pertinent to issues that plague society today.

Although her work is currently on display across the globe and within prominent museums such as the Smithsonian, Forman did not originally immerse herself within creative ventures.

Spending her childhood in Baltimore, Md., Forman proceeded to study sociology during her undergraduate career at Brandeis, merely dabbling in other courses, such as anthropology and the arts. Although she did not pursue the arts as the focus of her studies, she describes her experience at Brandeis as “positive in terms of understanding my place in the world.”

In particular, she recalls one of her art professors, Arthur Polanski, as a source of inspiration through his eccentricity and encouragement. Forman further recalls her enrollment in a course taught by a visiting artist, Jacob Lawrence, whose work depicted the historical struggles endured by African Americans. As a student herself, enduring the social and political turbulence of the 1960s, Forman reveals that her education at Brandeis enabled her to “see the world with a critical eye.” This would allow her to generate an awareness that would later transcend her experience as a student to become a crucial impetus behind her artistic ventures.

Recalling the moment in which she first stumbled upon Photoshop more than 20 years ago, she proclaims, “I immediately saw the ramifications for me and sunk my teeth into it.” Viewing this technology as not only a continuation but a revolution of her prior love for creating collages, she enrolled in media classes at Harvard Extension School to pursue her budding interest in the possibilities that Photoshop provided. As a consequence, she describes growing along with the program, developing broader skill sets as technological advancements continued to occur.

Forman utilizes a unique medium to generate her compositions, manipulating images with Photoshop software and blending together the vivid reality of digital pictures with the soft feel associated with paintings. In order to begin the process of creating a piece, Forman first selects a striking image, whether it be a photograph that she captured herself or a 19th century tin engraving. Attributing her background in drawing and painting to her ability to replicate the warmth of a hand-painted piece, Forman treats the monitor as her canvas, hoping to “create a reverence for life on the earth and the planet.” Describing this assemblage, she states, “I want to try to tell a story with the interplay of elements, I want the images to talk to each other.”

Dismissing the desire for purely aesthetic appeal, Forman pours many hours into the development of each work, sifting through endless images and the works of other artists in order to derive inspiration. Regarding her inspiration, Forman possesses particular admiration for the work of artists such as Joseph Cornell, an artist renowned for his collages and assemblages of images. In terms of her own artistic impetus, she said, “I don’t want to just create a bunch of pretty pictures,” but rather wishes that her audience will “hopefully gleam the issues that inspired each piece.”

She added that “being at Brandeis made me realize our commitment to try to leave the world a little better than we found it.” This is an ideal that she strives toward with her artwork, demonstrating the embodiment of social justice within creative expression.

She described a piece she is currently creating, which depicts the image of a lion nestled within a meadow. After much deliberation, she positioned a soldier within the backdrop of the image, seeking to title the piece “Predator.” In doing so, she hopes to challenge the preconceived characterization of the lion as the traditional predator, instead alluding to the harm that human beings inflict upon nature and the environment. Forman further reveals her broader message, explaining, “I am interested in portraying the relationship between the human and the nonhuman, and our interdependence with one another.”

In the past, Forman’s work has been exhibited at galleries such as the MFA in Houston, the Smithsonian, a museum in Pennsylvania celebrating photo collage and montage, as well as in institutions across the globe, from Paris to Beijing.

As she explained her desire to stress the significance of interrelationships within the world through her work, it dawned upon her that her artwork bore a similar impact upon her own personal life. Describing how she was “embraced by the photographic and fine arts community,” she states, “I have made wonderful friends through this experience, and am now in touch with people from countries I had never even heard of before.”

Through exchanging information regarding techniques, Forman found the artistic community to be supportive in spite of its competitive nature, resulting in the development of bonds with individuals she never would have had the opportunity to meet if not for her art. “Trying to suggest an interrelationship with the rest of the world” through her art, she incidentally found herself developing bonds across the globe as well.

Beyond her current fascination with Photoshop and collage montages, Forman seeks to continue to perpetuate her artistic endeavors by experimenting with new mediums in the future. In particular, she cites her desire to become involved with theatrical work, citing her aspirations to generate video projections of her images to correlate with theater productions.