The natural world is never still, whether it’s the motion of clouds, ripples in a stream, shifting sand, or the cycle of growth and death. Even rocks are constantly changing under the forces of fire, wind, and water. The work of award-winning artist Fran Skiles is also ever changing—and her artistic path has been marked by the exploration of a variety of media, including fabric, collage, paper, and paint.
Skiles’ solo show, opening May 12 at The Bridge Gallery in Shepherdstown, features her evocative abstract oils and acrylics that aim to capture what she describes as “nature’s essence.”
To that end, her painting “Winter Morning” recently took Best in Show at the 2018 Washington County (Maryland) Museum of Fine Arts Cumberland Valley Artists and Photographers Exhibition.
Born in Ohio, Skiles spent her teens in Martinsburg (WV). She earned a degree in textile design with a minor in art from West Virginia University, and continued her art education in Florida. She began her career creating fabric crafts and small, framed pieces, selling them at art-and-craft fairs.
Skiles eventually developed an interest in collage—layering photography, paint, ink, various types of paper, and fabric. She went on to become a full-time studio artist and teach workshops in paper and collage techniques around the country. Collage inevitably led her into the world of art quilts, which differ from traditional quilts (which are judged by craftsmanship—patterns, number of stitches per inch, etc.). Art quilts are not bed coverings, but rather present as original hung art.
“Art quilting is very laborious and takes time and patience, and you must understand sewing to do it,” said Skiles. “It can incorporate layers of fiber, with painting or photography or not, held together with stitching or even staples.”
Skiles worked on art quilts for about 10 years, receiving awards in national and international competitions. Currently, she is concentrating on oils and acrylics on canvas or boards. She says that she has always had a feeling for abstracts, describing her present work as “landscape-based abstract” that captures a feeling rather than a concrete image.
When she starts a painting, she noted, “I have no image in mind and no idea what the end will be,” adding that her art simply emerges, and thus, she has “… no plans for what artistic direction” she might take in the future.
However, she can always count on changing mediums. “About every ten years or so, I change mediums. It keeps the excitement!”
Skiles spends half of the year in Florida and half in her home in Shepherdstown, finding inspiration for her art in the changes of the seasons and contrasts in environment between her two homes.
Kathryn Burns, owner of The Bridge Gallery, represents Skiles and is pleased to have been showing her work since soon after the gallery opened. “Fran is a dynamic artist,” emphasized Burns, “and we’re so excited to be presenting her first solo show.”
— Skiles’ solo exhibit will run from May 12 – June 17, with an opening reception on Saturday, May 12, from 5-7pm. The Bridge Gallery (8566 Shepherdstown Pike) is open Wednesday through Sundays. For more information, call 304-876-2300.