Helen LaFrance (November 4, 1919 – November 22, 2020) was an American artist born in Graves County, Kentucky, the second of four daughters of James Franklin Orr and Lillie May Ligon Orr. While the terms are limiting, Helen has often been described both as a foreign artist due to her lack of formal education and her existence outside of the cultural mainstream, and as a folk artist best known for her memory painting of the lost lifestyle of the rural South. He also portrayed the powerful and intense spiritual visionary interpretations of the Bible in a style radically different from the memory pictures. Between 1876 and 1965, LaFrance grew up in a nurturing home under the Jim Crow laws, which stipulated discrimination and disadvantaged social, economic, and educational conditions for African Americans in the United States. His father, cultivating tobacco, corn, cowpea, beans, peanuts and sorghum, was the owner and farmer of his own land at a time when co-cultivation was traditional. His parents bought school books to teach him at home, and after his work was done he painted in his spare time and he was.
His artistic inclination was encouraged from childhood, and he always followed his mother’s wisdom to “paint what he knew”. He went to school in the fifth grade, but later went to work on the farm. When his mother died, he left home to do various jobs in the hospital, take care of children, cook, work in tobacco warehouses, and work in a ceramic factory where he decorated branded whiskey bottles. In his 40s, he earned enough money to buy art supplies at the grocery store, and began painting full-time in 1986.
Life and pictures;
Not limited to the two-dimensional setting, LaFrance was an outstanding quilt maker and wood engraver of animal sculptures and articulated dolls with handmade textile clothing. But it is his memoir pictures that strongly suggest a shared experience. “Simply put, the memory picture is a visual history of memories coming from a particular frame of reference.” The sense of time and space resonates with the feelings and memories of the audience, drawing them in. With oil painting on canvas, LaFrance shared family and church traditions, the values he grew up with, and memories of raccoon hunting, fishing, planting, collecting cotton and tobacco, growing flowers and using it to paint petals, general merchandise shop, barn dances, circus, fish fry picnics for family gatherings and congregation gatherings. It witnessed the depression, the stock market crash, the war in Vietnam, and the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was the blend of personal experience and expressive art that made Helen LaFrance unique and original. an important American artist.