Filmmaker and multi-media artist Billy Gerard Frank addresses issues of migration, race and global politics as they relate to gender, minority status and post-colonial subjects in his new show.
“Eulogies,” on view July 8 through Aug. 13 at Moss Galleries in Portland, is an autobiographical de-construction and re-positioning of Frank’s collective memories and experiences.
“Eulogies” will be Billy Gerard Frank’s first solo exhibition in Maine.
Frank lives in New York but is no stranger to the state. He studied under the American abstract expressionist and realist painter John Hultberg, who spent many summers on Monhegan Island. He was also Hultberg’s studio assistant for five years, where he was introduced to artists such as Robert Rauschenberg.
“Eulogies” is comprised of a film installation titled “2nd Eulogy: Mind The Gap” (40 minutes) set centrally on the island country of Grenada, accompanied by multi-media collage canvases, mixed-media photographs and sculpture. The evocative vignettes, forms and possibilities of narratives ruminate on themes of exile, migration, colonialism and sexuality.
“The film ‘2nd Eulogy: Mind The Gap’ spurns personal tales of loss, longings, memories, and the phantasmagoria by interweaving fiction and non-fiction to conjure an abstract story of interconnected lives,” Frank said. “The central tale narrates the lives of Nelson, a fisherman and father; his gay son James who is coming of age in a verdantly charged landscape; Antoinette, Nelson’s wife who embodies the island’s colonial past and Mother Country; and their maid, Josephine. Apart from telling the story of my father’s life, I wanted to explore personal experiences of growing up as a gay teenager in Grenada: the ridicule; the sexual molestation; the trauma. In many ways, James’s story mirrors my own.”
Frank’s father was a boat-builder and seafarer from the Island of Petite Martinique, a sister isle of Grenada in the West Indies. After his father’s death three years ago, Frank found a suitcase containing maps, letters, stamps, and various mementos that constituted the archive of his life. The letters formed a pattern starting with his grandfather that marked his family’s ancestry of global seafarers and mirrored his own early escape from home. This great divide was not just by water but the emotional gulf that is the spine of these personal and collective narratives of loss, grief, displacement, and longing—the narratives of diasporas and exile experience. These memories became the instigator and compass of the “Eulogies” body of work.
The accompanying collages of “Eulogies” serve as an extension of the film installation. Images from his father’s suitcase and other sources touch on motifs from the film to re-contextualize the personal, historical, and psychological impact that Grenada and his father have played in his life. Many of the images are hand sewn into the canvas as acts of remembrances to his father who was a skilled and sought-after boat builder.
Frank was born in Grenada, West Indies, and, in addition to being a filmmaker, is a production designer, educator and founder of Nova Frontier Film Festival & Lab, which showcases and incubates the works of filmmakers and artists from and about the Global African Diaspora, The Middle East, Latin America. He studied art at The Art Students League of New York and The National Academy of Fine Arts and studied under the American abstract expressionist and realist painter John Hultberg, and was Hultberg’s studio assistant for five years. He continued his studies in filmmaking and media arts at The New School for Social Research.
Frank is a lecturer in directing and design in the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University and has lectured at universities like NYU, the School of Visual Arts, and York University. He is also one of the artists in the collective representing Grenada in the 59th La Biennale di Venezia (2022) and also represented the island at 58th La Biennale di Venezia (2019). His mix-media artworks and films have been exhibited and screened in group and solo shows in museums and institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum (2020), Yale University, National Academy Museum of Fine Arts and Design, and international film festivals such as the Berlinale and Sundance, among others. Billy Gerard Frank lives between Grenada, Brooklyn, New York, and Paris, France.
Moss Galleries has locations in Portland and Falmouth. For more information, visit Moss Galleries at www.elizabethmossgalleries.com.