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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Helen Frankenthaler

Mix Master
About Mr.B

Helen Frankenthaler: December 12,1928-****...United States

"Whatever the medium, there is the difficulty, challenge, fascination and often productive clumsiness of learning a new method: the wonderful puzzles and problems of translating with new materials."
~Helen Frankenthaler

An artist that many, including myself, consider the greatest living colorist and a pioneer of staining is Helen Frankenthaler. She was born in Manhattan, New York to Alfred ( a New York State Supreme Court Justice) and Martha. She first studies painting under Mexican painter, Rufino Tamayo, while in high school. She earned her first degree from Bennington College in Vermont, where she studied under Paul Feeley and later learned from Wallace Harrison and Hans Hofmann. She then goes on to Columbia University's graduate program. By 1950, she meets major supporter of the abstract expressionists and art critic Clement Greenberg who introduced the young artist to icons like Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Willem Elaine de Kooning, and others. She was greatly influenced by the action paintings by Jackson Pollock. The following year she has her first solo exhibition. Soon, she would emerge as the leader of the color field painters. “There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.” Another of her art influences evolved into her marriage to fellow color field artist Robert Motherwell. They were married from 1958 to 1971.

Frankenthaler’s approach to art making was unlike most other previous artists. She pours paints and stains onto an unprimed surface. This allowed the paint to soak into the canvas. The approach is an extension of Jackson Pollock’s approach to painting. “One really beautiful wrist motion, that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it. It looks as if it were born in a minute.” The pooled colors are overlapped to create the desired look. These thin washes of stain layer up and soak into the canvas. Her transparent stains are her own secret applications technique and paint recipe. “You have to know how to use the accident, how to recognize it, how to control it, and ways to eliminate it so that the whole surface looks felt and born all at once.” She developed the recipe (supposedly consisting of house paint, enamel, turpentine and oil) in 1952.

Over the years she earned many degrees, honors and awards. One of the highest honors came in 2001, when she earned the National Medal of the Arts presented at the White House. She currently lives and works in New York.

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063