An American in Venezuela
The American University Museum
September 9-December 10, 2023
Curatorial Statement 2023
by Dr. Chantelle E. Bernard
Franklin White is back and better than ever! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Franklin White, he would tell you that he’s just an inner-city guy who loves to paint and travel and happed to fall in love with a little city in Venezuela called Merida. To me, he is “Inspiration Personified!” My experience with Franklin White dates to the 1970’s where I would travel during the summer from Richmond, VA to Washington, D.C. to spend a few days with my favorite uncle. Over the years, I have fond memories of receiving generous Christmas gifts, listening to his stories, and marveling at his travel experiences and career accomplishments. My cousins and I would often brag about our famous uncle; but I can say with full candor that I don’t think I fully grasped how accurate we were. For me, there was just something about the way he embraced life, pursued his art, and remained committed to his friends and family. Simply put, his life and his work spurred-on my inner creativity and provided a beacon for my personal and professional aspirations.
Shortly after his return from Merida about two years ago, Franklin expressed interest in showing his works at the American University Museum; but since he had not shown his works formally in the United States in 20 years, he wasn’t sure if it was possible. At the same time, unbeknownst to him, I was silently dreaming up ways to show my appreciation for his life and legacy and had been preparing to either write his autobiography or tell the world about his travels in Venezuela. In December of 2022, while preparing our annual Christmas dinner, his storytelling turned into an interview, and the books began to take shape.
Several weeks later, he received the invitation from the American University Museum to put on a show! He shared the news immediately and, with profound excitement, decided this would be an excellent way to share how Merida, Venezuela changed his life! We both laughed, and I reminded him about how great things happen, “When You Put It Out into The Universe”!
Curating the exhibition at the AU Museum in the Fall of 2023 was a project of inspiration, admiration, and love for my dear Uncle Frankie!!
— Dr. Chantelle E. Bernard
Photography: Camilo Paparoni, Maria Rios
and Greg Stanley 2021-2023)
A Curator's Statement(2001)
Laura Magollón Lee
I have known Franklin White for several years now since he first came to Venezuela in 1995. Initially, he came as a tourist, and in 2001 as a professor of art under the auspices of the Fulbright Program at the Instituto Universitario de Estudios Superiores de Artes Plásticas Armando Reverón. He has since made Venezuela his second home. During these years I have had the privilege of seeing him hard at work with oil pastel firmly in hand. If you know Franklin, you are treated to not only his body of work, but to the process itself, which can only humble an artist like me. First comes the search! Franklin loves Venezuela as much as a person can, especially Mérida. I have always been touched to see this. He is in constant search for the next topic for his drawings. Once he finds it, he documents and researches it, be it the frailejón, the bromeliad, or the bird of paradise. Once he has settled on an image, then come the colors.
As an artist, I appreciate the stylistic quality of his work. It is beautiful. And I appreciate the work and thought put into each image. But as someone who was born in Mérida, I am moved on a deeper level. How Franklin appreciates my beautiful frailejón! His love is evident, and that he drew these at a time of great political and social upheaval makes me appreciate it even more. Here is beauty. Nothing more or less is what you see.
The beautiful frailejón is my favorite. I want to touch it. But I must remind the visitor to refrain from doing so. Use your sight to caress it. It is a treat! There is much to keep the eyes occupied. The lushness of his drawings echoes the lushness of our surrounding landscape, which is easy to take for granted. It is always nice to have the foreigner remind the native people of what paradise they reside in. I do not think any of us need reminding of how beautiful Venezuela is, but in case that moment of doubt comes, we can always go to Franklin for a reminder.
I am happy to present Franklin White's first show in Venezuela. It is fitting that he present his work first in Mérida, the home of the frailejón, and then share it with spectators around Venezuela, so they can see through a foreigner's eye the beauty which we can so easily take for granted. I invite the viewer to take a deep close look at each one of his pieces and see the many elements that come into play in each leaf, flower, and background. There is color, there is texture, and there is line. This is Franklin White.