The inaugural exhibition of biblical visionary paintings by self-taught Kentucky artist Helen LaFrance will be on display in the Divinity Art Room (G-20) through November 16. A gallery talk by Kathy Moses, author of Outsider Art of the South and Helen LaFrance: Folk Art Memories, with Bruce Shelton, owner of Shelton Gallery and Fine Silver, is scheduled Tuesday, September 25, from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Divinity Art Room. Shelton collaborated with Moses on her book about LaFrance.
LaFrance, who is 93, has developed a widening fan base among art collectors, museum curators, and others interested in the cheerful depictions of her childhood in rural Kentucky. These works of American folk art are known as memory paintings and focus on LaFrance’s fond recollections of working on the family farm in western Kentucky as a young girl.
LaFrance, who has no formal artistic training, began painting full-time in 1986. She established an art gallery in the historic downtown section of Mayfield, Kentucky, and Oprah Winfrey reportedly is among those celebrities who have purchased her work.
The religious images in the exhibit, sponsored by the Divinity School’s Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture program, have never been displayed before, according to Dave Perkins, associate director of the program.
“These works have a life force, the effect of which is that they are not mere renderings of biblical events or memories of personal visions or revelations, but something alive,” said Perkins, who wrote an essay about LaFrance’s paintings for the exhibition catalog. “The works are the visions. The paintings are a mode of doing theology. They are Biblical hermeneutics visualized. They show the artist working creatively with text and concept. Her freedom of imagination in visualizing the sacred text is a quality that enriches contemporary religious thought, practice, and education.”
Gallery hours for Helen LaFrance: Biblical Visions are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.