by Nicole Wolverton
Alyce Frank, known as Lycee to her friends, defies easy categorization as an artist. An essay from Paul O’Connor’s Taos Portraits, a book of photographs celebrating the Taos, New Mexico, art community, reveals a sense of her aesthetic:
At various times, Lycee has referred to herself as a Taos Expressionist. Yet the clarity surrounding her process allies her more with the literary genre known as Magical Realism. The magic is extracted from the landscapes she paints via the color relationships she builds. Those relationships are a union between what she sees and what she’s aiming for in the scene. “The color provides both a sense of power and pleasure, which can be translated into joy,” Lycee says.
Easily categorized or not, power, pleasure, and joy are part of the reason that Alyce Frank began painting in 1973 when she was 40 years old. Prior to that she’d spent her adult life as a wife and mother, raising three kids, helping her husband to produce and edit education films, and, later, collecting and dealing in Indian artifacts. It was a move to Mexico and the inspiring landscape that prompted Frank’s interest in learning to paint. The essay in O’Connor’s book notes: “She had to find a way to be ‘in this enormous space outside my window […] I actually started painting because of that.’” Her trademark in the vast majority of her work is a torrid red undercoat of paint, which, according to an article in The Taos News, “imparts emotional ardency to the colors applied above. When allowed to show through, that red often haloes trees and outlines other elements of landscape with a shimmering intensity reminiscent of Van Gogh.” She also starts all paintings on-site, close to the natural forms she finds so appealing and necessary to her creative process. Frank celebrated her 50th birthday with her first art show. She may have been late to the art community, but her work has found quite a following since that time, now over 30 years ago. Her work has been exhibited at the Autry National Center, the Oakland Museum of California, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. The Taos Center for the Arts hosted a 40-year retrospective of Frank’s art in 2008, and she continues to create new art today. Now, at 82 years old, Frank herself can be categorized easily: a successful, if late-blooming, artist. All images © Alyce Frank