A closer look at some of Frank Moore's intricate oil paintings with the artist's commentary from his lecture at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (July 31, 1998) and from his essay "Painting from Life" published in a 1995 catalogue under his name by his gallery Sperone Westwater.
Frank Moore (1953-2002) was a visual artist, naturalist, and AIDS activist known for his imaginative detailed paintings on environmental destruction, consumerism, biogenetics, homosexuality, and the impact of HIV.
Roberta Smith of the New York Times credits Moore’s painterly influences to “social and magic realism, Surrealism, the Victorian fairy painters and the Hudson River School, as well as commercial art and Works Progress Administration murals.”
Moore considered Wizard the pinnacle of his paintings on AIDS. "It's a portrait of a doctor I was seeing for a while in France named Jean-Claude Chermann, and it's sort of an apocalyptic landscape and I crammed into it everything I knew. Some of it's funny, some of it's sad, some of it's really scary."
"The sun is a dividing cell, the sun is the source of life, it keeps beating down on everything—even the dying, and you see piles of money here. Money is falling from heaven so it doesn't fall necessarily where it's needed, it just falls in odd places, and that's the way it often is for money for AIDS."
“Sometimes serendipity strikes. I was working on Wizard in the summer of 1993 and needed to paint the lab mice. I was up in [the country] and couldn't for the life of me find a picture of a mouse--not in the library, the one bookstore, or the magazine stand. I gave up.
The following day I was on my knees weeding in the garden and Henry, my cat, strolled up and dropped something by my knee. You guessed it. I picked it up by the tail and noticed that it didn't seem at all hurt - just in shock. I put it in an empty bottle of cranberry juice and took it to the studio. By the time I had painted four versions of the mouse directly onto the painting, it had fully recovered. I let it loose in the woodshed and watched it scamper straight up the wall into the hay loft.”
The artist references the early American style of painting in which the figures are minuscule against the great backdrop of nature. The mountains appear inlaid with coins and dollar bills. In the background we see a red ribbon. Moore was instrumental in the creation of the red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS awareness and support.
"Painting from Life," Frank Moore, Sperone Westwater, New York, gallery catalogue “FRANK MOORE”, 1995
Frank Moore Lecture: Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1998 (video)
A Tribute to Frank Moore (video), Rebecca Moore and Denise Zmekhol
Images courtesy of Sperone Westwater and Gesso Foundation
The Anatomy Theatre, Leiden, c.1610 (engraving), Swanenburgh, Willem van (17th Century), Wikimedia public domain
Project by Rebecca Moore
Text by Rebecca Moore and Liz Fischer Greenhill