Fine artist Francine Dressler has been expressing her personal story through creating art since the 1970’s when she emerged into the Los Angeles art scene with her Modigliani-inspired female figures…and she hasn’t looked back since. Well, that is, not until a few years ago when her daughter Madelyn unearthed an archive of Francine’s works, and the rest is not history. After decades of evolving her personal techniques including a shift towards large-scale acrylic paintings, she is now circling back to the approach that helped define her artistic style almost forty years ago. This path all revolves around her “girl”, the unambiguous, bare chested, cherry lipped lady who despite time and technique, will seemingly always be a part of Francine’s world. With Madelyn leading as Creative Director, the “girls” are evolving into a proper brand by garnering exposure via Social Media and branching out into apparel and accessories. They have also been teaming up other designers and brands, developing collaborative projects. Francine recently invited us into her sunny home studio in Westwood to see first-hand her work – past, present and future.
What drew you into the practice of art and illustration? Was there a particular event or personal calling?
Art has always been my passion, I really can’t imagine doing anything else. There also has to be a practical side of life, which is, how do I make a living doing what I love? In my twenties, drawing and painting “the girl” became not only my passion, but also my meal ticket. It wasn’t until just recently that I started exploring her once again and how she fits into today’s world. As a young child I enjoyed imitating the likes of many famous celebrities. Sorry to say, without much talent. However, I was very funny and un-inhibited. I have always had a lot to say about life and since the stage was not my forum, “the girl” became the conduit for telling my stories.
To what do you most attribute the development of your craft. Did you have a mentor or formal education?
At a very young age my artwork was displayed throughout my elementary school and my teachers encouraged my parents to nurture my talent. I began private oil painting class at 12 years of age. Mrs. Bradley was my first mentor and the confidence that I gained from this experience began my journey as an artist. In the 60’s art was an important part of the high school curriculum and I was fortunate to experience a multitude of classes. I learned how to paint using acrylics, learned set design, jewelry design, and ceramics. At LA Trade Technical College, I studied fashion design and illustration and began a career in the fashion industry. I combined my two practices – fashion design and fine art that now comprise Francine Dressler.
Have you encountered any risks or challenges over the years as an artist, and more specifically as a female artist?
I have always been the sole support of my art and even now funding Francine Dressler is still my responsibility. One of the biggest challenges for me in the 70’s was the arduous task of setting up and dismantling for the many art shows. Thank goodness now all of my transactions are done through my website (francinedressler.com).
You’ve had a resurgence of your work in recent years. What are you most excited about when thinking about the future?
My Creative Director and daughter, Madelyn Somers, whose vision to resurrect “the girl” and bring her into the 21st century has opened the door for many interesting opportunities. I am very excited about our upcoming collaboration with Pintrill. I am also thrilled to be participating in this interview with David Kind!
What is it about the female form that compels you to make it the focus of the majority of your work?
I created “the girl” as an image of myself along with all of the other women who have influenced and affected my life – their humor, cynicism, compassion, quirkiness, etc. When I am creating a scenario, I think of the situations that I have experienced and they become the subject of my work. Interestingly enough I didn’t choose to dress her in the latest fashion. Rather I exposed her curvaceous figure, red nipples and a mischievous grin. A funny story happened in a public art show that I was participating in. I was approached by one of the head organizers and was politely asked to please cover up my female nudes because the Mayor was going to do a walk-thru. The show was in Las Vegas and they’re asking me to cover her up?
What do you think defines a feminist and do you consider yourself in or out of that category?
In the late 60’s and early 70’s when the women’s liberation movement was in full swing, I was young and single. At that time women were throwing their bras, girdles, hair curlers, into a “Freedom Trash Can”. “The girl” became one of the voices for this movement. Unbeknownst to me, I guess I was part of that scene. I never particularly considered myself a feminist – I’m a woman who is being myself, who expresses myself, so perhaps I am…
What is your take on selfies and social media as a form of self-expression?
I think we should leave “selfies” to this present generation because anyone over a certain age should only be photographed with soft lighting. Social media really has been very helpful, especially Instagram with all of the exposure and our followers. It really has proven to be a great tool in re-introducing the Francine Dressler brand.
You are a true born and bred Los Angelino. What is it about this city that you love and most identify with?
Yes, Los Angeles is and will always be my home. My family and friends are here. The weather, color, landscape, diversity, fashion, Hollywood, architecture, food and buzz of the city inspire me artistically and spiritually. Just last week, I took the new Expo downtown to the Broad Museum and lunched at the Grand Central Market energizing my love again for this amazingly magical city.
Francine wears the Richmond in Midnight.