In July, the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center announced the 2020 Michigan Fine Arts Competition winners, and for those who followed the competition last year they’ll see at least one familiar name: Fran Wolok.
“I was thrilled,” Wolok said about finding out she was one of the competition’s winners. “I’m even more thrilled that it's two in a row and different jurors. I'm excited to be part of the competition.”
Wolok – who lives in Bloomfield Township – was one of 79 artists selected from more than 400 entries across five states. Her piece, “Time and Space (Saturn V J2 Engine),” is one of 91 in the exhibition, and she received the Blick Art Materials Award for her work.
This year’s exhibition is unlike prior years. It can be seen online until August 27. While some may be disappointed by, that Wolok isn’t.
“To be honest, it's a relief. I think there's a much wider audience,” she said. “I’m a quiet person, and what I have to say I put on a canvas. For me, I do like it better.”
The coronavirus not only affected the exhibition itself but Wolok’s creation.
During the quarantine she was organizing her studio when she came across a reference piece from years ago.
“I went to Florida, Cape Canaveral, and NASA, and there's a parking lot of old rocket ship engines, and I loved it,” Wolok said. “And you really have to know what goes into what. It was one of those complicated pieces that I thought, one day I'll do it. Well, the rainy day has come upon us and I took it out and finally did it after all these years.
“This was something different that caught my eye because it was complicated, sculptural, and I enjoy doing that kind of stuff.”
The title was from finally having the time and space to create the acrylic work.
While “Time and Space” had complex reference material, Wolok has experience in that. She used to be an auto industry technical illustrator.
While acrylic is currently her preferred medium, Wolok has years of experience with oil painting as well. She switched to acrylic for health reasons and its ability to dry faster, a plus since Wolok often works quickly.
The piece in the competition is much different from Wolok’s usual works. She often creates expressive landscapes, like the piece she’s currently working on, which will be more abstract. Over the years her work has changed slightly. She uses wider brushes now, but has also changed with the times in terms of methods to create.
“It’s like cooking – there have been advances in the materials themself. There are different ways of applying the new materials,” Wolok said. “Just doing a variety of things and not doing the same thing all the time. I do landscapes frequently and I think now they're kind of going into more of an abstracted form.”
For her landscape pieces, Wolok starts by going outside. She’ll go for walks at different times of the day to see how the light hits scenery. Wolok enjoys using a lot of color, light, and the different tones that come out of it. When she first starts a piece she draws what she sees and then extracts it. She explained she needs her source from the outside and not just one she sees in her head.
“There's a lot of decisions that have to be made and sometimes people say, ‘Oh, it looks so easy.’ Well, there's a lot of training behind that,” Wolok said. “This brings me joy.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent