The Color of Absence

Over the past few years, I have noticed a sense of absence, disconnection, and disquiet permeating my life and those around me. Creating constructed visual narratives allows me to express visually what I cannot articulate with words:
How do you describe Absence?
Absence comes in many conflicting forms – longing despite proximity, loneliness within the sunny illusion of domestic tranquility, shadows on a sunny day, realism with illusion.
As a story-teller, I create these cinematic tableaux to grapple with and express ambiguities. Each image is a separate story, immediately personal.
My visual narratives expand on the noir tradition of exposing fragility, longing, and lost kinship. I place my subjects in uncertain settings, just out of reach of companionship. They are as elusive as a shadow or are absorbed in their interior lives. The play of light within a shadowy space - with its evocation of silence - gradually brings on a sense of existential isolation. An empty space suggests an absence or the liminal space between this world and the next. Geometry, especially in the use of rectangles and diagonals, seem to suggest a sense of stability, refuge, and a solid foundation, but it can’t submerge one’s sense of unease. Vibrant fantasies trap viewers in a distorted perception of time and space, eventually offering an ‘escape hatch’ by way of a lit window, a mirror, or door left ajar.

  • Fran Forman
  • Date Taken:
    June 13, 2023
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Camera:
    Nikon 7200, Leica CL
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  • Student Project:
  • Critical Mass 2022 Top 50, Prix de Paris several years, gold and silver, , Julia Margaret Cameron
    Paris, US, Barcelona,Berlin, various
    June 13, 2023
    2022 Top 50 - Critical Mass, Photo Lucida Shortlist- international Artist Prize, BAA Gallery, Berlin Distinguished Guest Lecture, Saddleback College 2021 Artist in Residence – Millay Arts 2020 International Photo Awards AAP Magazine 2019 International Photo Award, Lucie Foundation, Honorable Mention Los Angeles Center of Photography, Honorable Mention Critical Mass – Finalist 2018 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree – New England School of Photography International Photography Competition International Photo Awards, Lucie Foundation, 2nd Place Critical Mass – Finalist 2017 International Photo Awards “Women Seen by Women” Runner up to First Place 2016 Artist in Residence, Halsnoy Kloster, Sunnhordland Museum, Norway Critical Mass – Finalist 2015 First Place – By the Books Photo-book competition Artist in Residence, The Studio of Key West Flash Forward Festival 2015, Boston MA A Best PhotoBook of 2014 – Elizabeth Avedon 2014 Municipal Heritage Museum, Malaga, Spain New Orleans Photo Alliance – Finalist Curator-Juror – ASmith Gallery, Texas Critical Mass – Finalist Artist Fellow, 2012-2015, St. Botolph Club, Boston 2013 Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Fine Art portfolio - First Prize Featured speaker - Masters In Digital Photography Lecture Series (School of Visual Arts, NY) 180 Photographs, 180 Years, American Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand 2012 Px3 Prix de la Photographie Paris – Gold award (Fine Art); First Place (Fine Art Collage), Silver award (Book Proposal - series) TCC Photo Gallery – Best in Show (Harvey Stein, Juror) 2011 Worldwide Photography Gala Award – Second Prize Julia Margaret Cameron Award – Fine Art - Honorable Mention Photographer’s Forum International – Finalist Critical Mass – Finalist Px3 Prix de la Photographie Paris – Official Selection 2010 International Photo Awards – Fine Arts Collage - First Place International Photo Awards – Honorable Mention PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris – Honorable Mention Julia Margaret Cameron Award – Fine Art - Honorable Mention Los Angeles Center for Digital Art - Top 40 2009 Women in Photography International – Honorable Mention Critical Mass – Finalist 2008 PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris -1st place - Fine Art category – Winner PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris - People’s Choice Award – 2nd place - Fine Art category Common Ground International Touring Collection Ultimate Eye Foundation - Finalist International Photography Award 2nd place – Fine Art Collage category International Photography Award - Honorable Mention – Fine Art Digital Enhancement 2007 PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris -2nd prize in Fine Art category - Winner (5th annual digital imaging competition, Adobe) - Winner Art Complex Museum, Duxbury, MA - Color Photography - First Place Art Complex Museum, Duxbury, MA - Best in Show
Artist Biography

Fran’s photo-paintings are in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM, Washington, DC), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Grace Museum, Abilene, The Sunnhordland Museum, Norway, the Conner Collection at The University of Texas, and the North Down Museum, Northern Ireland.

In 2022, she was awarded Top 50 from the prestigious Photo Lucida's Critical Mass.

Fran’s latest book, The Rest Between Two Notes: Selected Work , was published by Unicorn in 2020 and has won an International Photo Award and been selected as a best photo-book for 2020 by Elizabeth Avedon and What Will You Remember. Fran’s book also was the sole feature in the photography magazine, Dek Unu, and it was featured in The British Journal of Photography, 1854 Media, L’Oeil de la Photographie, and others.

Escape Artist: The Art of Fran Forman, was published by Schiffer Books in 2014 and has also won several prizes including a Best Photo-Book by Elizabeth Avedon.

Fran has mounted many solo exhibitions, including The Henry Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock Abbey, England; The Massachusetts State House and The Griffin Museum of Photography; AfterImage Gallery (Dallas); the University of North Dakota; Galeria Photo/Graphica (Mexico); Sohn Fine Art; OpenShutter (Dorango); and the Pucker Gallery (Boston), as well as numerous group shows. She has been featured in many magazines and publications as well as the recepient of multiple awards and prizes..

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Fran studied art and sociology as an undergraduate at Brandeis University. She then received an MSW, working as a therapist for several years with heroin addicts and their families. Returning to her passion for making art, she began creating staged photographs. She earned an MFA from Boston University in graphic design, a field in which psychology melds with art. She spent most of her grad school years experimenting in the darkroom.

In the early ‘90s, Fran began incorporating photography and digital collage into her design work. She designed several visually rich CD-roms and later became an art director at AOL-Time Warner. There, she designed the preeminent web site devoted to African American culture.

Between professional life and raising her two daughters, Fran continued to create her personal art, combining her illustrative and photographic skills with her fascination with the human psyche. She recently retired from the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University where she was a Resident Scholar for 16 years. She teaches advanced workshops nationally and abroad. She is also a recipient of many honors and grants and has been a Resident Artist at Holsnoy Kloster, Norway, Millay Arts, The Studios of Key West, and the Vermont Studio Center. She is often to ask to curate and jury photo competitions, both nationally and internationally.

She is represented by Pucker Gallery (Boston), Afterimage Gallery (Dallas), Susan Spiritus Gallery (Newport Beach, CA), Sohn Fine Art Gallery, and Galeria Photo/Graphica (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico). She resides in New England.

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Artist Statement


Short statement and bio

Fran’s photo-montage images have been referred to as photo-paintings, and her distinctive award-winning images, resplendent with color and mystery, are generally recognized as ‘the work of Fran Forman”.

Her background as a painter, therapist and graphic designer, and her life-long interest in art history, is reflected in her complex and provocative images that explore themes of solitude and disconnection endemic these days in American life. Her staged scenes integrate and juxtapose realism with illusion, longing with disconnection and are suspended in vibrant fantasies that hint at ambiguities. Yet always a slash of light offers a measure of hope.

Fran’s process of creating her ‘photo-paintings’ is unusual. While her images suggest the fracturing and disconnection of relationships, her method suggests the opposite. She photographs disparate people and settings during her extensive travels over years. Back in her studio, she digitally melds and connects fragments, sometimes chosen at random, to create a story. She works like a choreographer, trying various configurations and relationships, until the pieces fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. The process is entirely organic and intuitive. She has found over time that despite starting with disparate pieces and settings and visually linking them together, the human emotions in her visual narratives are indeed universal.

Her work resides in many private collections as well the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Grace Museum (Texas), the Sunnhordland Museum (Norway), Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum, the Comer Collection at the University of Texas, and the County Down Museum (Northern Ireland).
Fran’s 2nd major award-winning monograph, The Rest Between Two Notes, with 110 color plates and 224 pages, was published as an art coffee-table book by Unicorn in 2020. Escape Artist: The Art of Fran Forman was published by Schiffer in 2014. Both books have received awards and much acclaim.

In addition to the collage artists of the last century, she is heavily influenced by Caravaggio, Jacub Schikaneder, Vilhelm Hammershoi, Edward Hopper, Gregory Crewdson, and film noir cinematographers.

Exhibition history

Fran has had many solo exhibitions, including The Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock Abbey, a National Trust site in England, The Massachusetts State House, The Griffin Museum of Photography, AfterImage Gallery (Dallas), the University of North Dakota, Galeria Photo/Graphica (San Miguel d’Allende, Mexico), Sohn Fine Art Gallery (Lenox), OpenShutter Gallery (Dorango, Colorado), several colleges, and the Pucker Gallery (Boston), as well as many two-person and group shows. She has been honored with many awards, artist residencies, an Honorary Degree from the New England School of Photography, magazine and book features, monographs, and speaking engagements. In 2022 she was among the Top 50 in PhotoLucida’s Critical Mass.