Meaning as lush as the colors she works in flows from Claudia French’s work in “Growing Collages,” just closed at Chungking Studio in Chinatown. Some jeweled in gold leaf, some incorporating leather and paper from an heirloom Bible, each of these collages are more mosaic than collage.
Carefully layered, intricate and beautiful, some have a spiritual passion, as with “The Golden Years,” above; others take on a more conventionally descriptive quality. The work below, “Fuku,” is based on a drawing by French’s daughter, and serves as an homage to her daughter’s vibrant, child-like vision.
Below, “Deconstructed Bible,” uses as material the softly worn leather covers, backsides, maps, notes, underlined writings, and inside cover pages of a bible once owned by French’s great-grandfather, a missionary in Africa. This piece has a softness to it, the small fragments with handwriting upon them create an elegaic image that draws the viewer in for close study.
Finding the right materials to create a piece take French longer that shaping her masterful works, she explains. Her inspiration comes from her medium.
Below, “The Color of Music I” and her subsequent series of pieces in the Color of Music series was inspired by her musician husband’s old music scores, used here as materials. She views the tree’s roots as the muse’s inspiration.
Below, two details from her works, showing the precision and elegance of the collages, as well as their jewel-like, multi-faceted qualities.
Below, “Memories from Japan III,” part of a series that uses everything from subway tickets to city maps and origami paper to evoke the inspiration of French’s travels to Japan.
Below, a closer look at “The Golden Years,” with its callback to icon imagery. French started her series of trees after leaving her birthplace, Romania, during the Communist era, and coming to America, where she “replanted… in a new soil to regrow and re-bloom.”
To view French’s absolutely gorgeous works — they are suffused with an inner glow that goes deeper than the stunning materials used, and refers to a lightness that the artist expresses — visit her private studio by appointment with a phone call to (909) 534-5400.
As always, Chungking Studios provided an exhibit space for a fresh, original series of works we haven’t seen elsewhere.
- Genie Davis; photos: Jack Burke and Genie Davis