Mary Frank’s Refuge at Zang

Dreamers by Mary Frank

Mary Frank’s process has always been all-encompassing. Her art has always felt organic, as if she were channeling elemental forces while simultaneously highlighting the role we’ve all played striving for a better world, always.

She paints. Her sculptures are world-famous. She creates monoprints, works-on-paper, tableaus, photographs. Her posters tackle the thorniest of issues involving the most brutal of assaults on our collective sense of humanity. 

Mary Frank, who will be feted at the reception for her new exhibit of works, 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, August 11 at Elena Zang Gallery 3671 Route 212  in Shady, and has just released a new book of her epic photographic works, Refuge, has always been an activist — from the early battles over civil rights, our involvement in foreign wars, the rise of feminism, and ongoing battles against world hunger and thirst to the most recent separations of refugee families at our borders and attacks on Planned Parenthood.

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She’s made striking new posters that hit directly at the inhumanity of border separations, for parents as well as children. She’s donating all she can to ensure Planned Parenthood’s survival.

“We all have to be active,” she says on a weekday morning, working with crews to complete all she does in a day, in a busy life. “We have a fascist country.”

Yet she adds how it’s also “not always obvious” how her political life enters her artistic process, or art.

She works with all manner of materials. Frank collects rocks, leaves, paper. She paints, assembles, sculpts. She arranges, rearranges, and ends up with both the complex works that have made up her two books of recent years, the latest of which is available at Elena Zang as well as Golden Notebook, and the charming yet dream-catching tableau sculptures that will be augmenting the two dimensional pieces on view in her latest show.

A woman’s face leans forward like the masthead on a ship sailing forth into the unknown; a figure walks across a landscape equal parts dystopian and survivalist. Elements feel ageless, stretching back to the earliest markings made on cave walls to denote our place in a larger world, a cosmology. They also touch on all the world’s myths, as well as the dreams such myths feed and are fed by.

Frank is quick to credit the writers she has been working with of late, including the great poet and critic John Yau. Also, her partner of many years, the musician and musicologist Leo Treitler, who’s busy prepping for a special concert event of his own at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild’s Kleinert/James Arts Center later this month.

The world is Mary Frank’s palette; its faults and all our attempts to still shine despite them, are the most basic of her many themes.

As always, an exhibit of her new works is a major Woodstock event.

A reception for Ms. Frank takes place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, August 11, at Elena Zang Gallery, 3671 Route 212 in Shady. See elenazang.com or call 679-5432 for further information. Look up Frank’s entire complicated span of work at maryfrankartist.com.

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