FRED FOLSOM STATEMENT
Couldn’t read. In grade school I began doing nice illustrations for my sloppy book reports. The art raised my grades to “Cs.” Dyslexics don’t take to schooling. I taught myself to paint by studying the Dutch Masters in museums.
1953 My devotion to the classical nude began when I was eight. On my way to school one morning I stopped to admire a brand new car and was transfixed by the gleaming hood ornament - it was a NAKED CHROMIUM WOMAN! She seemed to be flying. What was she doing there? I was inspired, in love and late for school. I secretly copied a female nude from an art book. What a struggle. The drawing dragged on for days. Final shading on the clavicle-pectoral-breast-deltoid area led to re-drawing and erasures that eventually wore a hole in the paper. I vowed someday I’d paint a figure, but didn’t try it again for a decade. Back to cap guns.
1962 I sat next to my sister’s friend Judy on the bus. Judy was a popular cheerleader at Wilson High School. Trying to make conversation, I asked about her family reunion. She seemed upset and wanted to talk. On the verge of tears, she swore me to silence. Judy confided that the year before she had found a Christmas card with a snapshot of the family. Her cousin, the one nobody ever mentioned, was way in the back. When she asked about the picture, her mother got angry. It was her first visit to her hillbilly relatives in Pennsylvania. Judy dreaded the trip.
The reunion was at a little farm house way out in the middle of nowhere. Judy was relieved that her cousin wasn’t there - probably away at school. Everyone was pleasant, but it was a little tense. After a couple of days, Judy went for a stroll in the woods. She was enjoying the fresh air, when out of nowhere, someone took her hand. She had been joined by a naked woman. “She was brown as an acorn..... It was my cousin.... She lived in the woods with nothing on - like an Indian. We walked. She was gentle.... She liked me..... and-everyone was sitting on the front porch, we just walked up and sat on the porch swing. God! She looked just like me. She sat beside me at supper – so I didn’t have to look. My mom knew – everyone knew – everyone but me......... Her hands were hard.”
One moment Judy was a trend setter at Wilson High and the next she was on the porch swing with her stone-age mirror-twin. I sometimes wonder what happened to Judy’s cousin. The possibilities are all too sad to consider. That scene on the front porch haunts me to this day –– a perfectly serene naked person surrounded by desperate, bundled up relatives, who live in boxes. Much of my life’s work has been a series of speculations on that impossible situation.
1964, Pratt Institute: Martha Mayer Erlebacher was my first year design teacher. Martha was very intense. In the middle of one lecture she stopped mid sentence – her eyes locked on me – she marched straight through the class - toward me. I was in trouble. She stopped directly in front of me, and said, “The nude is everything –– EVERYTHING!” and, just like that, she returned to teaching. My course was set.
By 1973 my work had focused on nudes in stark, surreal settings. These ‘freeze-frame soap operas’ were first shown at Gallery K, beginning our 14-year association. 1983-1994, There were a series of Go-Go bar paintings. From time to time, landscapes. 1997-2007, flying nude paintings. By 2008, my nudes had become contemplative, mood studies.
It has taken decades to work my way past the painted surface, past the nakedness, to the soulful presence within, to stillness.