Fran Bull is a versatile artist, and not just in terms of the media she uses. She has a utilitarian approach to subject matter— that is, using any approach or medium, without regard to formal rules— that gives a surprising conceptual unity to her body of work…Bull’s employment of the term “postmodernism” in her artist’s statement fits her pragmatic approach to form and subject. Under that rubric, her work provides insight into the exuberant spirit of contemporary fin de siècle visual art.-Marc Awodey, Seven Days, November 2007
Bull’s life was inspired and defined by her childhood study of art at the Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey. She went on to study painting at Bennington College with Paul Feeley, and in 1980 she earned an M.A. degree from New York University in Art and Art Education. Upon graduation from Bennington in 1960, Bull embarked upon a professional life in art. Her early work was influenced by artist Malcolm Morley and by the Pop spirit of Photo-Realism. It was shown and sold through the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in New York City.
Under the rubric of Photo-Realism, Bull addressed an established reality, one well known and shared. As her art evolved, she felt compelled to investigate the unknown– the hidden realities of the unconscious– the imagery of the unseen. In 1986, determined to find a personal voice, she set out on a solitary retreat to rural Ireland and delved into the writings of Carl Jung and Jungian analyst Marion Woodman. Bull’s affinity for the Jungian literature would come to exert a profound influence on her art.
A large group of ink drawings emerged. In 1990 some of the drawings were chosen to illustrate Mordant Rhymes for Modern Times, a book of political satire by poet Ann Salwey, which won the American Institute of Graphic Arts design award, and is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. In her review in The Print Collector’s Newsletter, Art Critic Nancy Princenthal wrote:
Bull’s expressive ink drawings bleed, maybe hemorrhage is the better word, across the tabloid-size page. -Nancy Princenthal, PCN, 1992
In the mid 1990’s Bull expanded her creative focus by exploring other media, and since that time her artistic output has included performance art, sculpture, mixed media, printmaking and set design, as well as painting. She has been especially prolific in the area of printmaking, creating numerous bodies of work that have received high recognition and several significant awards.
Bull works in collaboration with master printer Virgili Barbara in Taller 46, a printmaking studio in Barcelona, Spain where Picasso, Tapies, Miro, Saura and others worked before her.
In 2003 Bull exhibited her painting series The Magdalene Cycle at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont. Art critic Marc Awodey wrote:
The paintings in Fran Bull’s “Magdalene Cycle” at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery comprise a fierce and meaty group of neo-abstract expressionist canvases. Bull’s paintings are firmly rooted in art history, and her extensive use of red is particularly powerful. She has taken away the patriarchal view of Magdalene’s red as a scarlet letter and turned it into a red badge of courage. -Marc Awodey, Seven Days, October 2003
Today Bull’s art may be seen as an expressionist exploration, one that seeks to connect the mundane and quotidian to larger mythic and historical motifs, themes and narratives.
Fran Bull lives, works, and is a professor of art in Vermont, where in 2005 she established Gallery in-the-Field, a fine art gallery and performance space, whose mission is to present the work of provocative, innovative living artists.
Current exhibitions include a solo installation entitled In Flanders Fields in West Rutland, Vermont and Chicago, and group exhibitions of paintings and etchings in Chicago, New York, Denver and New Jersey. In a recent review of Bull’s latest work In Flanders Fields, B. Amore writes:
“In Flanders Fields” is an epic and elegiac hymn composed of subtle yet powerful notes reminding us of the constant interplay between life and death, not only on the world stage, but in our own day to day lives. -B. Amore, Art New England, February/March 2010
Ms. Bull was recently invited to the Guilin Museum in China, where her work has been chosen for the museum’s permanent collection.
I want to give expression to very deep intimations about the world of forms and presences. This entails a kind of physics, highly theoretical, but eminently experiential. I portray not a shell, for example, but the forces giving rise to that form. I look for the dream of the shell inside the dreamer’s head.