Becky Franco: One of the Artists Behind Deering Estate’s Newest Exhibition Stone House as Subject

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Becky Franco

Becky Franco, a 2019 Artist-in-Residence at Deering Estate, will be making a return to the Estate in the form of a new exhibit. From June 17th to August 31st, the Estate will be featuring several new works from Miami-based artists Becky Franco and Monia Meluzzi as part of their Stone House as Subject exhibition. Franco’s renowned large realist paintings will be on display in the Great Hall. 

       This year marks the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Stone House, which prompted Franco to create works that meditate on the interior and exterior intricacies of the Stone House and its historical significance in South Florida. 

      Franco comes from an eclectic background. Born in Havana, Cuba, Franco immigrated to the United States in 1961 and eventually pursued a BFA from the Pratt Institute in 1974. In the 1970s, the Photo Realist movement was growing, and Franco quickly grew interested. It was at this time, that She realized she wanted to paint on a large scale, portraying various everyday experiences. Her work led her to the field of outdoor Advertising, where she became the first female billboard artist to join the Sign and Pictorial Display Union. Franco continued to break boundaries by working for the largest outdoor advertising company at the time, Foster and Kleiser. This experience and her attention to detail attributed to her success as an Independent art professional painting large murals for homes and institutions. 

      Deering Estate named Becky Franco as one of their Artists-in-Residence as part of their  2019-2020 cohorts. Her time spent at the Estate was disrupted due to the pandemic, but this did not stop Franco from continuing to paint and demonstrate her talents. 

     Franco’s specific set of paintings entitled Observed is part of her project completed during her residency at the Estate. Her background in realism guided her to clearly portray the Stone House in all its splendor and elegance. Her work also holds a sense of intimacy and affection due to her connection to the site. She spent long hours observing the interior of the Estate in order to capture the many details and features of the Stone House, playing specific attention to the details of the Great Hall. Utilizing a variety of techniques and unexpected angles to give attention to its particular aesthetic. 

       Here is an interview with Becky Franco, where she discusses her project, her career, and her time as an Artist-in-Residence at Deering Estate: 

Q: What do you hope to convey with your new project, Observed?  

      A: The Deering Artist Residency for me has been an amazing opportunity in many ways. I am a transplant from New York, and it has been difficult to get exposure in the very competitive Miami art world. Being awarded the Deering Artist Residency has given me the break I needed to get my work and practice exposed to new audiences. The paintings in OBSERVED were specifically created for the Deering Estate to give attention to the enigmatic beauty of The Grand Hall.  

Q: How did you realize that you wanted to be part of the realism movement in art? 

       A: I was an undergraduate student at Pratt Institute in the seventies, and I attended The Whitney Biennial during that time. Billboard artist turned super realist painter James Rosenquist’s paintings graced the Whitney alongside the huge super realist portraits of Chuck Close and Richard Este’s New York City detailed street scenes where they were so highly regarded. When I saw that exhibition, I knew I had to sharpen my skills in order to join this movement. My paintings during Pratt moved in the Hyper Realism direction bringing me to seek employment in the billboard industry.

Q: As a female artist breaking boundaries in male-dominated careers, what is the most important piece of advice you have learned?

       A: I never realized at the age of 22, I had just graduated from Pratt. What a great opportunity to be hired to the outdoor advertising business of billboard painting. I did not realize that I would become the first female artist to prove that a woman could paint those giant billboards and that I would become the first female to be invited to join the Union. I was so young and so inexperienced as to how to interact with my all-male co-workers. Many became my mentors and taught me everything they knew to help me succeed and hone my skills. However, some became jealous that I was good enough to work alongside them. After a while the foreman gave me the more difficult billboards to execute which truly was an honor for me to be able to do.

Q: How did your time as a Deering Estate Artist in Residence shape your artistic journey and skills?

         A: My Artist Residency was one without a physical studio at The Deering Estate. It was a remote project residency, and it was during COVID. The residency allowed me to work at my home studio, but the COVID restrictions and total atmosphere of fear really affected me. I would have wanted to have attended more of the Deering Events but the fear of contracting COVID was so strong that I remained mostly at home and became a bit blue. It was quite difficult to muster the strength and enthusiasm to get into my studio to work on my paintings. The greatest motivation was my work and that I had won this prestigious residency and the great boost I felt it would give my career so that kept me going. It was a hard struggle to begin each new painting. But as the paintings began to take shape, and the excitement of each finished work became my motivation to get into my studio and paint some more. The Deering Estate Artist Residency has truly shaped my artistic journey and has given me the motivation to force myself into my studio despite feelings of ambivalence and that has inspired me to produce more work.

The Estate will be hosting an Exhibit Evening Reception on Friday, June 17th to honor the opening of the Stone House as Subject Exhibit. For tickets to the event, click the link here: 354083050937?_ga=2.2388592.1752265193.1655084240-739459655.1646273885. For more information on Franco and her wide array of work, visit her website through the link here:

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