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David Franklin: New Works


david franklin new works The journey began with graffiti in Denver, Colorado. A teenager named David Franklin--Dave to his friends--was searching for a creative outlet. He wanted something to make and to mark; a way to express himself. But graffiti with the Syndicate Spray Kings didn’t fully satisfy the urge, and Franklin began to search for something else. He turned 20, moved to Seattle, and encountered the traditional artwork of the Native peoples of the Northwest. Inspired and awed, he realized that this was a whole new way to channel his creative energy, and to take his next step.

landed the artist and his family in lean times, prompting Franklin to seek opportunities farther afield. In 2011 he applied for a “fantasy opportunity”: the John Michael Kohler Arts/ Industry program at the Kohler factory near Sheboygan, WI. This prestigious three month residency allows artists to utilize the factory’s vitreous porcelain, tools and technicians. “I never thought I had a chance of getting [the residency]” Franklin said, “over 350 applicants apply each year from around the world, and only 5 spots are available to non-Midwesterners.” It was a long shot, but Franklin applied and crossed his fingers.

Recognizing Franklin’s innate talent for detailed, careful work, legendary Northwest Coast carver Duane Pasco took him on as an apprentice. With Pasco, Franklin learned to make his own carving tools, and broadened his knowledge of the history and living cultures of Northwest Native peoples. His carving skills would allow him to work for well respected Native artists like Marvin Oliver, Preston Singletary, Shaun Peterson and Joe David as he translated his understanding into sculptures of intensity and power.

Like Duane Pasco, the Kohler foundation recognized Franklin’s drive, commitment and artistic vision. He was accepted to the 2012 program. Able to experiment with ceramics for the first time, he created carvings that were then slip-cast in vitreous china. Working fourteen to sixteen hours a day for three full months, Franklin and his assistants poured everything they had into the work. Though he had to miss some milestones along the way--his daughter’s first lost tooth, birthdays, Thanksgiving-he calls the residency “one of the greatest experiences of my life. [It] provided me with three months to fully be an artist without any distractions and to work to my fullest potential for the first time ever. I was able to make work that embodies something truly unique to me.”

With years of apprenticeship under his belt, Franklin moved his attention to larger things: public works made in collaboration with towns and communities across Washington. Adapting his traditional carving and sense of design to new materials—including steel and glass—he created works for libraries, playgrounds, skateparks, cultural centers and sports arenas. Exploring an area between traditional formline design and his own artistic expression, Franklin has evolved an iconic personal aesthetic. Now, after twenty years of being a full-time artist, Franklin has taken another major step in his career. The recent recession

This exhibition represents the debut of the works made during Franklin’s 2012 John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry residency. Also in the show are works in wood created before and after the residency, showing the strength of his characters rendered in alder, fir, yew and cedar. Franklin has come a long way from doing graffiti in Denver, but the same spirit--to express, to be seen and heard --is still propelling him to explore, experiment and refine.

CERAMICS Many works in this show were produced during the artist’s 2012 John Michael Kohler Artist Residency at the Kohler Factory in Wisconsin. This residency allowed Franklin to translate his unique style of carving into slip-cast vitreous china. Though the Kohler factory is in the middle of the country, Franklin brought a little of the Northwest with him, creating an extensive series inspired by the sinuous tentacles of the Pacific Giant Octopus. Franklin’s fascination with octopuses stems from an up-close and friendly encounter in Misty Fjords, Alaska, when Franklin pulled a shrimp pot out of the water and a small octopus was busy chowing down on his catch. The octopus wrapped tentative tentacles around Franklin’s arm, and he was amazed by the gentleness and magnificence of this otherworldly creature. These works in china are re-creations and explorations of that first friendly encounter, summing up the alien—yet welcoming—spirit of a Northwest denizen that few ever get to meet. Skull imagery is also prevalent in Franklin’s new body of work, but it is far from somber. Intricate formline designs and elegant voids transform these memento mori into celebrations of life, culture and individualism. The designs on these skulls are reminiscent of artwork from cultures across the world, but are blended seamlessly into Franklin’s personal style. Franklin sees the human skull as the ultimate blank canvas: we are all made of the same stuff, and we are connected by ties deeper than geography, culture or language.

Unglazed Small Curled Tentacles (Sold Individually) Vitreous China 13.5”h x 6”w x 4.5”d each

unGlazed Tentacle Group Vitreous China 25.75”h x 22”w x 22”d

Small Tentacle Table (Canoe sold seperately) Vitreous China, Glass Top 15.5”h x 20”w x 20”d

Large Unglazed Wavy Tentacles (Sold Individually) Vitreous China 26.13”h x 7.5”w x 8”d

White Glazed Tentacle Group Glazed Vitreous China 25.75”h x 22”w x 22”d

Black Glazed Tentacle Group Glazed Vitreous China 20.38”h x 21”w x 18”d

Tentacle Pedestal Sink Vitreous China 53.63”h x 27”w x 20”d

Cabazon - Unglazed Brown Vitreous China 5.25”h x 10.63”w x 3.5”d

Cabazon - Unglazed white Vitreous China 5.25”h x 10.63”w x 3.5”d each

Smallpox on the Salish Sea Vitreous China 4.25”h x 16.75”w x 7.63”d

bad candy Colored Vitreous China, Glass, Tin 6.75”h x 6.75”w x 4.75”d

Ghost Canoe Vitreous China 4.25”h x 16.75”w x 7.63”d

Skull - Drizzled Color Vitreous China 5”h x 4.25”w x 4.88”

Illuminated Skull Vitreous China, Plug 5.75”h x 5.5”w x 5.5”d

Illuminated Skull Vitreous China, Plug 5.75”h x 5.5”w x 5.5”d

WOOD This selection of wood sculptures shows the range and depth of Franklin’s carving abilities. In his traditional “Northern Style Raven Headdress” and “Little Bird Man” masks, there is power pulsing from every line. “The Weaver” and “Clam Basket Rattle” incorporate the patterns of woven cedar bark, a tip of the hat to the traditional female role of weaver and male role of carver. “Two Crows and a Snake at the End of Widme Road” is a work of incredible detail and balanced composition, depicting a complex struggle between creatures of air and earth. The sinuous shape of the snake draws the gaze to every corner of the panel and highlights the motion and tension in the work. Wings spread and beaks open, the crows mirror each other, the repeating slats of their feathers bringing symmetry to the center of the panel. The rich, honeyed hue of the fir wood makes this piece glow, and will only deepen as the wood ages.

Two Crows and a Snake at the End of Widme Road (detail) Fir 64.75”h x 31”w x 1.5”d

Two Crows and a Snake at the End of Widme Road Fir 64.75”h x 31”w x 1.5”d

Canoe Bowl Spalted Alder, Acrylic, Glass Beads 5”h x 14”w x 6.25”d

Little Bird Man Alder, Acrylic 9”h x 6”w x 4.5”d

The Weaver Alder 9.38”h x 7.5”w x 4.25”d

Clam Basket Rattle Yew Wood, Holly Wood, Pigments, Beads 5.75”h x 2.75”w x 2.75”d

Northern Style Raven Headdress Alder, Acrylic, Red Cedar Bark 32”h x 21”w x 12”d

Acknowledgments: The creation of this body of work took a huge sacrifice from my wife and children and the many family members and neighbors who helped while I was away for three months making tentacles and other things. I would like to thank my wife, Joanne, who has supported my career for the last twenty years without fail on what has not been an easy journey. At the Kohler Factory, Shari McWilliams was my amazing tech and guide to Sheboygan, my interns Victoria Ahmadizadeh and Joe Bartram (master of debris), my fellow resident Carol Prusa, and all the factory associates who helped teach me. For all the ceramics help, thanks to Meredith Chernick and Bridget Young. At the John Michael Kohler Arts center I would like to thank Cara Lynch and Susan Barnett, and most importantly Ruth Kohler. I would also like to thank Artist Trust for their support of this project, as well as so much of the creativity in our community. -David Franklin, October 2013

Unglazed Small Wavy Tentacle (sold separately) Vitreous China 10.63”h x 7”w x 3.5”d

Stonington Gallery

125 S Jackson St Seattle, WA 98104 206.405.4040 /

All Work by Dave Franklin Photos by Kohler & Ashley Genevieve Catalog Design: Nicole Bell Š 2013 Stonington Gallery

David Franklin: New Works at Stonington Gallery  

Stonington Gallery: David Franklin 2013 Exhibit Catalog

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