World War II veteran United States Army airfield mechanic Fran Moyer completed her education on the G.I. Bill, in 1952 receiving a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts), Oakland, where she later taught.
Throughout the 1950s, Moyer focused on liturgical sculpture, working in stone, concrete, monumental hand-carved wood and welded steel, including her fourteen Stations of the Cross, installed at Saint Anselm's Episcopal Church in Lafayette, California.
Fran Moyer's rigorous sculpture won critical acclaim and was exhibited in galleries and museums nationwide, including group shows at the deYoung Museum, San Francisco and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and solo exhibitions at the Oakland Museum of Art (the Oakland Museum of California as of 1969).
When Moyer started teaching at the Mendocino Art Center in the early 1960s her sculpture began to exhibit the ironic yet puckish humor which characterized all her later work, including the small format watercolors for which she achieved a second generation of fame, the manic geese, distracted sirens and plump red cows of her Caspar Pond series, her cheerful illustrations of the bloody mayhem of Greek myths and her comic, closely observed cats.
In the 1970s an alter-ego emerged, the irascible artist Honey Glumm, author and illustrator of "Honey Glumm's Tales for Kiddies", published serially in The Big River News and gathered in a limited edition book for Fran Moyer's 2002 Mendocino Art Center retrospective."
Mendocino old-timers will remember Moyer's handcarved lifesize "Cigar Store Indian" guarding the entrance to Zacha's Bay Window Gallery from 1964 until the mid-1980s when the sculpture was kidnapped. Bill Zacha's daughter Lucia says it broke her father's heart. A reward is offered for a safe return. Contact email@example.com
- Carol Goodwin Blick (2008)
See the archive of Fran Moyer's artwork.
FRAN MOYER: "JOY TO LIFE", an interview with bobby markels, author of the "Mendocino Malady" series, "How to Be A Human Bean" and "Popper", on the occasion of Fran Moyer's exhibition, "Myths", Bay Gallery, 45110 Main Street, Mendocino, CA 95460, which opened on November 11, 1988.
I don't know anything about ART. I just know what I like. Doncha hate people who say things like that? But it's true. And I don't want to learn anything about ART either; I've got so much stuff whizzing around in my head already that the last thing I need is more.
But I do know what I like: Fran Moyer - a great lady who has lived in Mendocino some twenty years or more, has a lovely house, a charming garden, is a good cook and best of all - I LOVE HER STUFF. Her work makes me laugh. It makes me happy. It makes me feel good. Her stuff is ART with a sense of humor.
I went over to her house the other day; her house was filled to overflowing with new paintings for a show opening at Bay Gallery November 11th.
"Fran", I said, "This stuff is marvelous. Can anything this hilarious be real art?"
"I think so", she said. "I have a gold medal I got (for a pretty gloomy piece of sculpture, actually) that has a Latin quote on it: "Gaudium Vitae Dare" - to give joy to life. This strikes me more and more as being what art is about. It doesn't mean that everything should be cute and nice and pretty, of course. After all there are all sorts of great Crucifixions by the masters, and Goya's stuff and Picasso's Guernica and King Lear and Macbeth and Hamlet. But in the sense we're talking about here they certainly give joy to life. And nobody, I think, can quarrel that they are not Art. Maybe art is about enlarging and enriching life, but the Latin does sound classier, you'll admit."
As she talked, I kept staring around at her latest work: marvelous renditions of Aphrodite and Paris, Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards the underworld, ready to devour intruders (imagine Fran's handling of this one), Leda and the Bug, the Three Hesperides, daughters of the night (and they sure looked like daughters of the night to me), Artemis and Actaeon, Daphne and Apollo, Helen and Paris (like you wouldn't believe) and so on.
"This current collection came about," Fran said, "when I got to thinking about some of the Greek myths. It seemed like it might be great fun to have a whack at making them graphic. The way I had been working (on the cats, mermaids, etc.) was drawing in ink, mostly with a twig or some slightly unmanageable stick. I liked the resistance and the struggle that ensued. Somewhere Paul Klee writes about taking 'a line for a little walk.' So the pictures got to be sort of excursions in line and watercolor."
I forgot to mention there were some acrylics of the country around here, I knew one of the scenes of McKerricher Park, and here's what Fran had to say about that. "I got to looking at the woods here where I live and noticing the wild variety of grens and shapes and light patterns and began to have an urge to paint in acrylics [the myths were in ink and watercolor] which are more 'painterly' I guess you'd say. Anyway, you can splash them around and paint in and paint out and build up color on color (and wreck your clothes if you're not careful). Also, I was hanging out at McKerricher Park when I could and I was struck by those wonderful sweeping views and gulls and blackbirds etc. and I wanted to get some of that swell stuff down if I could."
Later, when I was talking to noted artist Hilda Pertha, she told me, "Yes, Fran's new show is very exciting. The theme, colors, lore and composition all point up her wonderful sense of humor. The technique is tightened up from her other work and her understanding of the myths is very profound. The richness of color is something very special."
So, it's a good show. Go see it. Fran Moyer has won many awards (Oakland Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Art Festival Award of Merit, San Diego Museum and various others), and has exhibited widely locally and nationally. She is a great prize and we should honor her.
MOYER'S CATS BREACH SPECTRUM OF LOVE, a review by Hilda Pertha, The Mendocino Beacon, Thursday October 2, 1980
When a serious artist turns to a light mood, something greater than charm becomes visible. This is what occurs when Fran Moyer turns her attention to the subject of cats.
Fran's love for cats extends to the joy and humor and all the many moods she has observed in these creatures of mystery. Her means are clear and concise: ink and wash in succinct areas of the total composition in every drawing. The papers are small to medium in size, yet some reach a sense of the colossal.
Fran has to her credit fine art in sculpture, painting and prints, poetry and humorous children's stories, years of devotion to students, building and woodworking, and now, in 1980, a series of the most delightful expose of cat (and human) spirit I have ever seen. The aliveness is what strikes me first, then the gaiety, color and humor are manifest.
But aside from what first greets the eye as subject, there is a deeper aspect to Fran's work here which I want to point out. I am referring to the qualities a mature artist demonstrates in each composition he undertakes, be it as small as a miniature or as large as a mural.
Observe, for example, the superb use of space in each drawing. The "notan" or solid-vs-space areas are clearly defined and in each case unique. The areas in the two-dimensional sense are elegantly balanced. At the same time, a separate, more subtle space entity in the third dimension is felt, and the third dimensional objects have very comfortable areas in which to exist.
The shapes are convincing whether the cat form is stretched out in extreme activity or at rest. The involvement of the cat watching or pursuing its prey gives these works their remarkable variety as an exhibit. At the same time, each one is intensely individual and holding interest far more than just as a cat picture. Human female nudes interspersed among the cats give another delightful dimension.
Moyer's drawings go beyond the usual cat concept which many artists have exploited. They are genuine works of art. Take, for example, a composition in which three red-orange cats are finding a spot to rest on a green rug. The colors dance, with the wall behind softly striped in yellow-green on yellow ochre. Each shape is exciting to the eye, yet holds its place within the rectangular format. The cat on the right sits tall with the line of the back at an acute angle to the right vertical side of the picture. On a level place with him, a second cat crouches, their respective tails forming a curve in harmony with the respective shape of the cat, each tail taking a lively part in the movement inherent in the composition.
The third cat, smaller as it recedes into the rear of the space, also forms an acute angle, but this time to the upper left horizontal edge of the painting. Tiger-stripes harmonize with the broader vertical stripes of the rear wall as well as the subtly suggested horizontal stripes of the oval carpet, a bluish-green color which perfectly sets off the warm hues of the cats. The tail of the third cat falls vertically near the left edge, with just a suggestion of the acute angle again. The very subtle stripes on the other two cats are there to reward you as you take another look.
In this as in many other works, the eyes of the cats are focused on a particular thing, either out of range or in the actual picture. The artist has utilized this cat-phenomenon as a unifying principle compositionally.
These subtleties exist in every one of the drawings, whether a simple silhouette (such as that of the small group of green-eyed black cats on a white field) or the very richly hued ones. The latter includes the cat in the garden, a truly painterly work.
Here is a world of enjoyment that goes deeply into the visual. And there is another, subtler joy that recognizes the universal values that an original work of art can evoke, that which provided the artist with the special energy humans are gifted with, enhanced by a lifetime of devotion to her craft. Yet, even beyond that, a personal achievement of a different sort speaks out from these works: a looking into that which is meaningful, that which we can love.