Fran Shalom’s abstract paintings exist on the brink of recognition. Her playful forms flirt with nameable objects, shifting out of reality just as the viewer thinks they have begun to sense hints of representation. Yet her pieces defy being reduced to a metaphor.
Shalom’s palette also toes the line between the familiar and the ambiguous. Her pop sensibility is represented in bold, electric color choices, but the relationships she presents are fraught, rarely succumbing to easy combinations. There is a push-pull between foreground and background, so that you’re never quite sure if the figures are breaking through or receding within the space.
Shalom pokes fun at this complex engagement with her work, giving her paintings cheeky titles that make it difficult to resist searching for associations and explanations in what you see before you. Is it possible to see her paintings solely for what they are? Can we overcome our attempts to classify them?
This essence of Shalom’s work is rooted in her early introduction to Zen Buddhism. She approaches each new painting with “a beginner’s mind,” freeing her process of pretense and literal connections, embracing infinite possibility. Working in thin layers, she’ll build up and selectively scrape down again, intuitively forming shapes, textures, and color. The creation of the piece itself is a meditation, and once it’s completed it then becomes a tool for others to meditate upon. Fight the urge to make sense of her forms, no matter how tempting, and the piece reveals itself in the calm. Perhaps surprisingly, it then provides a satisfying clarity.
Fran Shalom has exhibited widely throughout the United States, including at the Painting Center, Fogg Art Museum, and Newark Museum. Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Rose Art Museum. She has been the recipient of a MacDowell Colony Residency and an Art Omi Residency. She has an MFA in Painting from Montclair State University, and an MFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. Shalom lives and works in New Jersey.