I discovered Francesca Simonite‘s work through one of MARN‘s exhibitions, C is for Conversations, early this Fall. From a distance, I was drawn to her work by its sculptural form. As I approached the work, I noticed that her work was not only sculptural, but also photographic. The work was different from what I have seen when it comes to photography. I enjoy seeing both mediums merge.
The interesting thing about my first encounter to our most recent conversation is how the dots connected. The second time I saw her work is when I selected works for the Teeny, Tiny, BOLD exhibition at Rountree Gallery. Two of the pieces I selected where two smaller pieces. At first, I did not realize that these were her works. The aha moment clicked when fellow photographer Pat Ryan and I visited the gallery in late November to see the work in person.
When the current MARN exhibition, MARN Mentor/Mentee opened in mid-November I saw that she was one of the mentees. About three weeks ago, I visited the MARN ART + CULTURE HUB to see this exhibition and it was at this point that I wanted to meet Francesca.
During our conversation we talked about art, photography, and art education. We are both high school art educators so I immediately connected with her. Part of my role as publisher of Artdose Magazine is to know as many artists living in Wisconsin as I can. Social media makes this a reality.
Prior to meeting, I did not know anything about her besides the work that I have seen. Francesca moved to Milwaukee about a year and a half ago from Austin, TX, for her job at Franklin High School. It was easy to talk about teaching, but I had to refocus on her work. The photos that you see are mounted on thin sheets of aluminum, which are taken with a film camera. I asked her, “why film?” She stated that she enjoys the process. The idea of using aluminum as a substrate was encouraged by her sculpture professor at Brooklyn College, which was to think about presentation. I have seen photography mounted, matted, and presented in multiple ways, but never in a sculptural form.
Her first introduction to photography was through her mother who is a photographer. She remembers as a young child seeing her mother rip photographs and recreate them through the process of collaging and then re-photographing them to create new context. This process exposed her to a different way to present and think about photography.
As our conversation continued, she mentioned that she creates a maquette for each piece before executing large-scale work. We walked towards her work in the exhibition and she talked about the incorporation of text. The negative space of these words and use of light creates another dimension making the work inviting and interactive between the viewer and the artist.
If you go:
MARN ART + CULTURE HUB
MARN Mentor/Mentee Exhibition | Ends January 4, 2022
191 N. Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Frank Juárez is a former gallery director, award winning art educator, artist, author, advocate, and community arts leader living and working in Sheboygan.
Juárez brings two decades of art education and arts management experience organizing local and regional art exhibitions, community art events, facilitating presentations, supporting artists through grant programs, and professional development workshops. This has placed him in the forefront of promoting Wisconsin artists, networking, and attracting regional and national artists to collaborate and exhibit in Wisconsin.
Juárez is the publisher of Artdose Magazine, art department chair at Sheboygan North High School, and contributing editor of SchoolArts Magazine.