Frankie Slaughter is a mixed media artist living in Richmond, Va. She works with a variety of materials including fabric, paper, encaustic and porcelain. She previously designed one-of-a-kind jackets, jewelry and accessories.
I collect bits of papers from my travels and beyond: gold leaf funerary papers, old dress pattern papers, newspapers written in Hindi, Thai and Chinese, and notes and doodles from my sketchpads.
Over 15 years of living in Hong Kong, I was drawn to the nuances of the culture: I learned basic Cantonese, traveled extensively, and collected beads and ethnic textiles and trims from India, Thailand, Bali, China and surrounding areas. I also became interested in collecting joss papers which were burned in ceremonies as offerings to the ancestral spirits.
These remnants often find their way into my collages, as do discarded, torn fragments from old paintings. Sometimes, I cut specific parts from the paintings and weave the pieces into my abstract compositions.
My bits of collected papers and painting scraps represent the past; the remnants say something about what we value and how we live, what we cherish and what we discard.
My earlier Shanti series use my paintings and photography printed on rice paper which I found at an old art shop in Hong Kong. The photos in the series are ones I’ve taken in my travels—fishnets in Sri Lanka, graffiti covered walls in Hong Kong, Thailand, India and Prague.
Many are also photographs or video stills from 10mm film reels I found at my parents’ house. I made them into a video and enlarged the stills and printed them on the rice paper.
In some, I altered or mirrored the painting to create a geometric pattern or print. I’ve considered making these patterns into rugs and/or textiles.
A number of artists have influenced my work—Picasso, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell and Robert Arneson. My favorite style icon is Iris Apfel.
Very much like collage, what I loved about working with fashion, especially designing jackets, was layering the textiles, adding texture and history to the sleeves and collars with Thai and Indian coin belts, embroidery and colorful trimmings and embellishments.
While I enjoyed seeing my art ‘walking’ and being worn, there’s a liberty in my visual work which feels free of boundaries around fit or fashion trends, color forecasting and style, and yet is still layered, textured, and collaged. Even so, I sometimes lament that I’m ‘turning my back on my jackets.’ My assistant consoled me; she put it so beautifully: ‘Frankie, your paintings really are your jackets unraveled.’
My current work focuses on an abstract series of encaustic and oil collages on panel, as well as gouache, watercolor and ink wash on paper.
When I begin a work, I generally start by mixing paint colors with a palette in mind; from there the mystery unfolds. Always open to mistakes and surprises, I let the subconscious take over as I see the markings and doodles take on a life of their own, inviting me to play and let go.
In It’s a Long Story, all the bits are cut and torn pieces from my paintings.
Hidden is also made of scraps from earlier paintings as well as drawings my father gave me from his discarded prints.
In Leave No Trace, I feel there’s no way to find any footprints, signatures, stampings, patterns on the path laid out in this painting. No matter how we travel this road, we will leave no trace behind.
I wanted to show Packages floating insignificantly, and not necessarily burdensome. Maybe the piece is more about materialism, parcels arriving which we don’t need.
After creating Full Circle, I felt I was coming full circle. I use a sort of ladder drawing repeatedly in my work. Perhaps I had to climb these ladders a few times to feel complete; I’d come full circle, back to the start but with a different perspective and prism.
I feel my mental process is best described by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine and noted teacher of meditation and mindfulness practice. He says that an ability to “…embrace an awareness, a state of not knowing and then let it ‘cook…” leads to a series of “ …eureka moments, tremendous creativity, awareness and insight arise out of the stillness, just being, in silence, a knowing beyond…”
I continue to strive to embrace the “ongoing dance in the beauty of those moments when we don’t know”—to discover a creativity not bound to results or expectations.
Slaughter is now working towards her next show to be held in 2018 at the Academy Center of the Arts in Lynchburg. Her art has been featured in Southern Living, Traditional Home Magazine and Virginia Living as well as on Virginia Currents and at Capital One Richmond Virginia. Her designs have been shown at Chicago’s One of a Kind Show and Philadelphia’s Highland Craft Show.
Slaughter was named Style Weekly’s 2015 Women in the Arts Honoree in Richmond. She has served as an art juror and fashion mentor for area schools and colleges.