Who: Frances Rodriguez
What: Visual artist
Artist’s chosen location for interview: The French Truck (4536 Dryades) where she ordered her one and only coffee for the day
Q: What’s something you do not like looking at?
A: Clutter. Bad design choices [laughing]. Whether it’s clothing or houses, I just don’t like bad design choices. I was looking at a house this week, and there was this combination of blue and green on the house, and they were just a little bit off on the green. It drove me crazy. It was too woodsy. It had too much brown in it.
And plastic. I can’t stand looking at plastic. I’m specifically thinking of kid’s stuff. Plus, the plastic adds to the clutter. And if you have a plastic container that you drink out of it eventually gets foggy, which is incredibly gross [laughing]. You’re probably drinking that fog. And mold.
[We both recognize that we are drinking out of plastic cups]
We should bring in glass mugs next time we come in here [laughing].
Q: How would someone watching you work change your process?
A: I would get nervous, and it would not be good. There are currently painters painting on the outside of my studio, and even that is unnerving. I’m working on a commissioned piece right now, and it’s so difficult knowing that they’re out there.
You feel like you’re on the spot. I can feel the stroke of my hand tightening versus when I’m in my element, and my body is fluid.
It’s funny because I used to work at home, and I have two little kids. With them around I was working in a manic way. There wasn’t necessarily pressure of someone watching me but more a feeling of ‘I have to get this done because I have so many other things to do.’ There was also the safety factor. One of my pieces, which is actually up at Peche now, that I was working on was when my daughter was learning how to crawl. She kept getting poked with the pins, and my husband said, ‘Frances, we really need to get you a studio.
Q: What’s something you’ve become great at resolving?
A: I’d say I’ve become great at resolving my application of how I create my pieces. My style was something I was criticized for in school. My pieces were never finished enough or quite right for the industry, so it took me years and a period of not making anything at all to eventually get to the place I am now.
I got really burnt out after college.
I had boxes and boxes of scraps. I moved them around from Rhode Island to New Orleans to San Francisco and back to New Orleans. Then one day, I sat down, I cut some of the scraps, and I made a bird with them.
At that point, I felt like I had really resolved the conflict that was around the haphazard elements in my work. Previously, I felt like I had to make my work this pristine thing. And I will never ever be that. I really wanted my work to go forward, and there was this happy marriage of my style and preconceptions of what the work was supposed to be. The frayed edges are part of the piece now, and the work has been resolved. It’s able to speak for itself now.
Q: What do you always bring with you when you travel even though it is not needed?
A: I am a pretty sparse traveler. Before I met my husband I was the opposite. I was slightly a hoarder, but he’s helped me transition into this different lifestyle. We live in a 740 square foot apartment with two kids, us, a dog, and turtles.
We get along really well.
We just took a trip recently to the Dominican Republic because my husband is from there. I was really proud of myself because there wasn’t any excess in my packing. I used everything I brought. Although, tennis shoes are always the wild card. I always have the hope that I’ll workout or at least go for a walk, but it’s only hopeful.
We explored when we were in the Dominican Republic. My husband is from Santiago, and we stayed there before going onto the beaches and mountains. His uncles are the middlemen between some farms and grocery stores. So we went to his farm where there were all these vegetables and chickens. While I was there I came up with this theory about cold weather countries versus warm weather countries. Mind you, I don’t think this is just my theory. I’m sure someone has come up with it before me, but in cold weather you want to be cozy, and you are inside for so many months that you want to engage and feel proud of yourself in some way. You have to develop yourself since you’re isolated from other people.
In warm countries you’re around your family or other people, you have no desire to leave because there are beaches and tropical paradises just a half an hour away. People can help take care of your kids, and it’s paradise. But since all of those things are appealing to your bodily senses on a constant basis it’s hard to take that time for yourself. My husband dealt with this because he grew up in this paradise, and he’s also a violin player. People would want him to go to the beach, and he’d have to stay home and practice.
Q: What’s it like to return home?
A: It’s interesting because I don’t necessarily love the place that I’m from, but a lot of my work is inspired from where I grew up in Alabama. My work is rooted in nature, and I grew up near a lake with red clay. That red clay is a potent part of me.
When I was in college in Rhode Island it was almost like I would get dehydrated just from being there. I needed the humidity and soil of the South.
Now I’m in the perfect spot in New Orleans. It’s a vibrant place that’s accepting, and it’s got that humidity I need. I don’t think I could be anywhere but the South.
Frances Rodriguez’s work in currently exhibited around New Orleans, and you can see her work at upcoming show at Alltmont’s Frame Shop (4001 Baronne Street) in October. The opening is October 13th from 5:30-7:30. 20% of the profit will go to Breast Cancer Research. She also has another showing coming up in December at Claire Elizabeth Gallery (131 Decatur Street).