Artist Statement

P H R A N C  |  T O Y S 

Making “Toys” for this show let me time travel. It also led me to search and find images I had all but forgotten. I have created toys that I once had. Toys I wished for but never got. Toys my father had. Toys my brother had. Toys that my friends had. Toys that I dreamed of.

I remember the sheer joy of galloping around the house straddling my “Broomtail” hobbyhorse. Dressing up! Costumes! Not just for Halloween, but to play to be someone else. Puppets were friends who could talk to you. Toys and cars and trucks and trains drove the streets of pretend towns.

There is grief, too, in losing a toy. One day I left my PEZ candy gun on top of the station wagon. We drove off and I never saw it again. I still can’t believe a toy was made that let you put a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger so that your tongue could enjoy a piece of candy.

Dolls, trains and dress-up games, toy kitchens and puzzles and kites bring fun and relief and memories.

Creatively escaping reality - enjoy!

-- Phranc



Currently resides in Los Angeles, California.
1977 - 1978 The Feminist Studio Workshop at The Woman’s Building
2016  Phranc Toys | Friesen Gallery | Ketchum, ID
2015  Toys | Craig Krull Gallery | Santa Monica, CA
2014  It Happened in Sun Valley | Friesen Gallery | Sun Valley, ID
2013  Winter | Craig Krull Gallery | Santa Monica, CA
2011  Phranc & Co. Out West General Store | Museum of the American West, Autry National Center | Los Angeles, CA
          Phranc of California | Craig Krull Gallery | Santa Monica, CA
2007  Phranc | CUE Art Foundation | New York, NY
2006  Cardboard Cupcake | 18 Street Arts Center | Santa Monica, CA
          Phranc of California | Eastside Studios | Los Angeles, CA
          Paper Play with Alison Bechdel | Pine Street Art Works | Burlington, VT
2005  Carnalville, cardboard sign installation with TEADA | 18th Street Arts Center | Santa Monica, CA
2004  The Cardboard Cobbler | “Valentines” 18th Street Art Center | Santa Monica, CA
1994  “Phranc-O-Mat” storefront installation | Creative Time, 42nd Street Arts Project | New York, NY
1992  Brief Encounter: a three-dimensional pop art show | Highways | Santa Monica, CA
2015  Paperworks | Craft and Folk Art Museum | Los Angeles, CA
2014  Incognito 10 | Santa Monica Museum of Art | Santa Monica, CA
          FILTERED: What does love look like? | Friesen Gallery | Sun Valley, ID
2013  Compass: Navigating the Journey to Self-Identity | Orange County Center for Contemporary Art | Santa Ana, CA
          This Side of the 405 | Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design | Los Angeles, CA
          #three | The Archer School for Girls | Los Angeles, CA
2010  The Man I Wish I Was | A.I.R. Gallery | Brooklyn, NY
2009  Support | Frederieke Taylor Gallery | New York, NY
2008  This Side Up: The Art of Cardboard | San Jose Museum of Art | San Jose, CA
          Grandmasters: Honoring Sheila DeBretteville | The Art Directors Club | New York, NY
          Pink and Bent | Leslie/Lohman Gallery | New York, NY
2007  Welcome Home | Arena 1 Gallery | Santa Monica, CA
1999  Forming: The early days of PUNK | Track 16 Gallery | Santa Monica, CA
1994  Group Show | White Columns | New York, NY
1978  Books, Posters, Postcards with Cindy Marsh | The Woman’s Building | Los Angeles, CA
1998  Milkman LP | Phancy Records
1995  Goofyfoot EP | Kill Rock Stars
1991  Positively Phranc LP | Island Records
1987  I Enjoy Being A Girl | Island Records
1985  FolkSinger | Rhino Records

News and Press

Excerpts from an essay on Phranc by Julia Schlosser | 7 August 2013

At first glance, the work of Phranc is no more than an apparently innocent, and anachronistic installation. The objects appear as if they could prop the set of a 1950s romance. A second glance, however, reveals something “phunny” is going on here. These life- like sculptural elements are fashioned entirely from found cardboard and Kraft paper, painted in gouache and acrylic, and held together with thread or glue. While these “phaux” costumes pay homage to the past, where recognizable rules, roles and relationships have been turned on their heads.

Phranc has consistently relied on debased materials throughout her career; cardboard and rolls of Kraft paper take the place of the brown shopping bags she previously employed. In 1991 she made her first three-dimensional object, a slice of blue-ribbon cake fashioned from card- board, and has produced and exhibited sculptural work ever since. The pieces are shaped, assembled and painted according to what she calls her “build and glue” method. She takes obvious pleasure in the materiality of her craft, delighting in the process of plying cardboard into outerwear and shoes, jumping and pounding on it to allow it to bend into the shapes she desires. For her, the vernacular democracy of cardboard holds a special resonance. “Cardboard has no culture,” Phranc says. “It has what we bring to it. It is an equal opportunity medium.”

One of Phranc’s dream jobs had always been that of a cobbler. In the early 1990s, fueled by the success of her blue-ribbon cake and inspired by a biography of the famous couture shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo, she set out to fabricate 100 pairs of (cardboard) shoes. She got as far as 20—including cowboy boots, mules, Converse sneakers, saddle shoes and high-heeled pumps— but even this partial realization of her goal sealed her bond with cardboard, hence her current moniker: the Cardboard Cobbler.

A technical breakthrough came in 2006 when, despite previous unsuccessful attempts, Phranc finally learned to sew. Mastering her grandmother’s sewing machine with help from a friend and various sewing instruction books, she began to craft gouache-covered Kraft-paper “fabric” items. Phranc starts the process by painstakingly cranking out yards of patterned fabric. She rolls the Kraft paper out on the floor of her studio and inscribes pencil guide marks on it. Then, in a Zen- like, Agnes-Martinesque action, she applies freehand first the background and then the patterned markings of the fabric to the paper. Application of paint causes the Kraft paper to acquire a more flexible, “fabric-like” consistency. Like any seamstress, Phranc uses sewing patterns to guide her as she cuts and sews her “fabric” into objects. The resulting pieces have a substance, a body and physicality that ordinary cloth objects do not possess. The subtle matte sheen of the gouache patterning imbues the objects with a tactile continuity, as well as with a redolent odor evocative of the tempera paints Phranc (and boomer children all over America) grew up with. The appeal of these items resides not only in their retro charm but also in the visual pleasure of their quasi-trompe- l’oeil quality. She has fashioned comfortably familiar objects from unfamiliar materials.

Little formal education in art undergirds Phranc’s deft efforts, “I’m pretty much self- taught,” she says. “I did get to take a few great art classes when I was a kid. When I was 9 years old I saw Claes Oldenburg’s giant billiard balls at LACMA [the Los Angeles County Museum of Art]. They really wowed me, changed my idea of art from just painting to ANYTHING. But I didn’t go to ‘art’ school. 

The strength of Phranc is her simple yet evocative language and humor. Phranc thus asks us to reexamine the history of the 1950s and 60s in a new light; offering up her objects to viewers to try on metaphorically, to see what “fits.” And while her objects allow us to experiment with our identities, they remind us that any idealized images we construct of the past will turn out to be as illusory, as “phlat,” as the cardboard they are modeled from.