Art AV Club: Helen Frankenthaler

I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole recently, like you do. I took an online class and one of the bonus materials was a video about Cy Twombly. After I watched it, I wondered if there were videos on other Abstract Expressionists. And just like all trips down the YouTube rabbit hole, I surfaced several hours later awed by the amazing content and looking for snacks.

Since social media doesn’t allow for easy sharing of this kind of material I decided to make it a recurring feature on my blog. And just like that, Art AV Club was born! On Mondays, I’ll be posting videos of or about artists and sharing a bit about why what they do intrigues me. I hope you’ll go on this journey with me. This inaugural Art AV Club is on my favorite Abstract Expressionist: Helen Frankenthaler. She is part of the reason my work looks like it does.

Watch Helen work

This first video for Art AV Club is under 2 minutes but in it you get to see Helen work and talk about what she thinks she does best.

1984 CBS Sunday Morning clip

In this longer clip, you get to see Helen wear her artist hat as well as her business hat as she preps for an art show.

Why Helen?

In college I took the required two semesters of art history. I had a hard time not snoozing through the first semester when we were mired in old masters and church art. The second semester I had to take art history from a different professor. Either by his design or sheer luck he looked amazingly like Andy Warhol. Given his appearance, unsurprisingly he was more interested in recent art history. Our semester projects were presentations on artists from the 1920s-1970s.

I got Helen Frankenthaler because she was one of the few women on the list. I was already excited about the abstract expressionists. This project allowed me to dig into Helen’s dreamy work and I fell in love.

My Frankenthaler bio project for history overlapped my biggest painting project in my studio class that semester. My painting instructor, who was game for nearly any idea I cooked up, green lit me doing a Frankenthaler themed painting as well. She was so jazzed about the project that she all but stole my brushes out of my hand when I worked on it! I give her much retroactive credit for not sneaking in and working on it when I wasn’t there. If you are reading this, Hi Sandy!! FYI, you spoiled me to forever be looking for a communal painting experience as great as that class.

The end result of that project was a Frankenthaler-themed triptych that was the biggest part of my senior art show. The three pieces live in my youngest child’s room which we painted to match the art. (Pretty sure I might’ve doomed that kid to being an artist with that flex.)

My Helen Frankenthaler-themed senior art show triptych. Three unprimed yellow canvases with flowing purple and red bulbous blooms of color.

Go exploring on your own

I hope this Art AV Club leads you to further explore the works of Helen Frankenthaler. There are many more videos about her on YouTube and of course you can do an image search to find more of her work. I’ll be bringing another Abstract Expressionist next week so check back on Mondays. If there’s an artist you’d like my take on, drop me a note and I’ll put them on the list!