3 minutes reading time (612 words)

#TBM Artist Interview- WAV Resident Frances Spencer

#Throw Back Mondays (originally posted 8/10/10)
As a playwright, a poet, a painter, and a print-maker, Frances Spencer has firmly planted herself in both the world of art and the world of writing and drama--but there really is not much of a distinction to be found there. Spencer has lived and enjoyed her two passions thoroughly through her experimenting and conceiving and creating.
Spencer received her Bachelor’s of Fine Art with a minor in Drama at UCLA and went on to get her Masters in Design at UC Berkeley. Throughout these years of schooling she attained momentous training in art however, she never did take a writing class-- her writing developed later when she began writing her avant-garde plays.

How could all these wonderful artistic talents develop further into writing? Spencer began on this path of a playwright through her hobby of performing mimes. She teamed up with a friend, Willy Wong, and began improvisation mimes in the 60s and 70s on street corners in San Francisco. These Marceau Marceau type performances gradually began incorporating dialogue and finally Spencer felt she was equipped to write a play.

Spencer wrote her first play, titled “The Artist”, in a constant high fever for two to three months. During this time, she felt she experienced mystical forces that contributed and influence her play and inspired her to keep on in this type of work. Overall, she has written 17 pieces of drama--everything from monologues to musicals.

These wondrous pieces of writing are not the only art Spencer excels at--her paintings and prints prove to display her artistic gifts even further. Her paintings take even longer than her writing, but perhaps that is because she plans out these paintings--through numerous sketches and conceptualizing--as if writing a story. It is only then that she actually begins to paint. Her prints are developed through a similar process which concludes with the carving of woodcuts and finally a series of linoleum prints. Her printing takes the form of a very organic process where she constructs her own woodblocks and utilizes her bare hands to rub the rice paper on the inked blocks.
In each painting, Spencer forms a story to coincide with the aesthetics as she creates and eventually manifests an involved, imaginative fantasy to go along with each piece (only evident upon conversation with the artist, otherwise the piece is left up to interpretation of the viewer). How do these deviant narratives surface in Spencer’s mind? She says a subject will haunt her for months and eventually it becomes clear that is what she must depict in her next piece.

These paintings and prints encompass subject matter dealing with Jewish cultural themes such as biblical drawings as well as common scenes such as jazz clubs. The content does not stop at the surface level of these concepts--it plunges into the depths of Frances Spencer’s mind bringing out memories, images, and ideas from her past and present.

Living at the WAV has enhanced all that Spencer does through numerous means. The connections and networking is one of many positive aspects at this wonderful artistic community. Spencer even stepped beyond her comfort zone with the help of a neighbor and spoke at the Rotary club--an opportunity she would have never received without the community full of contacts Spencer has gained since residing at the WAV.
As I wandered out of Spencer’s unit piled with various scripts, and decorated with several paintings, and filled with stacks of prints, I feel I have experienced Spencer’s talent understand why it is recognized and appreciated through her wonderful neighbors that contrive and persevere mere yards away from Spencer’s studio.
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