Francisco Franco is a California Artist who has been painting professionally in the Bay Area since 2002 after graduating from the New York Academy of Art where he was taught painting and anatomy by some of the best contemporary figurative artists on the East Coast. While there, he was also awarded a fellowship to study anatomy at Oxford University. Francisco’s undergraduate study was done at the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in Art Practice and minored in Philosophy and where he developed his conceptual approaches. His artistic beginnings were at Modesto Junior College and the streets of Empire, California.
The work you see here begins with his studies at the NYAA, where on his first week of class, he witnessed firsthand the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, an experience, which shook him to the core and in an instant his world took on a new existential dimension. For the first time in his life, he recognized his own imminent mortality and instantly became obsessed with the thought of death and the inevitable fact that we would all have to face it.
“I became so obsessed with this fact that I literally walked around for a year wondering why no one was freakin’ out and discussing this horrible truth.”-Francisco.
His studies abroad only helped to reinforce and further drive this idea home. While in Oxford he was required to draw from cadavers under Oxford Professor Sarah Simblet, where he was taught to think of a pencil as a scalpel, there he also met and spent time studying the anatomical plastinations of Dr. Gunther von Haggens. To quote Francisco, “Can you imagine the mind f*@$? There I was studying and contemplating my future as an artist, all the while sitting in front of a dead corpse, witnessing first hand that ultimate inevitable and horrible truth. I was left with what I believe was post-traumatic stress.” Years went by with this hidden trauma that was having a number of negative effects and consequences that were both affecting him physically and psychologically. It wasn’t until he turned to his ancestral roots and heritage that he started to heal from this. While doing research work for a mural at San Jose’s Chicano Studies library, he came across a few books on the Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico. A concept celebrated and began with the ancient Mayans, through the Aztec era, and snuck into Spanish culture in the guise of Catholicism’s All Saints Day. It was through the cathartic power of art and the idea of the Day of the Dead Celebrations that he was able to finally come to terms with the concept of death that we all have to face by embracing and celebrating death as a part of life. Like the sugar skulls of Mexico, by dressing up the symbol of death with the sweetness of life, using vivid color and humor he began to find a more holistic and satisfying view of the world.
“To constantly have the specter of death before you removes its power and like a memento mori (reminder of death) or vanitas painting, it’s reminds us and allows us to live life all the more so and to its fullest.” – Francisco Franco