Every morning, Francine Tint wakes up, dons a wet suit and shower cap and mixes buckets of paint. In her New York City apartment, which overlooks Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, Tint splashes, sponges, brushes and rolls paint onto the canvases covering the walls of her bedroom.
“Jackson Pollock painted on the ground, like the Native Americans did with sand art. Well, my space isn’t very large, so I wrap the canvas on the walls. Since I paint wet on wet, kind of like fresco painting, I get very wet. By the time I’m done, my entire bedroom is the color of the paint,” Tint said.
An abstract expressionist artist known for her work with color, Tint experiments with combinations and layers of reds, pinks, oranges, grays, blacks, lime greens, mustard yellows, turquoises and purples.
“I’ve always loved color, even as a baby,” Tint said. “As a kid, I’d wear turquoise skirts and yellow sweaters. I’ve always been drawn to color and the feelings they evoke.”
Her bold strokes of dark, bright and pastel colors currently fill the walls of the Carnegie Visual Arts Center in downtown Decatur. The 30-piece exhibit, “Radical Acts of Seeing,” will remain on display at the Carnegie through June 27.
Feelings play an important role in Tint’s work, from the creation of the art to the naming of the paintings. They are what started her on a journey to explore abstract art 50 years ago.
“I think it was my mother’s death that prompted me to do some type of art that had some meaning or feeling that words couldn’t really describe,” Tint said. “The best way for me to evoke those feelings was to lay down color next to color.”
While earning money as a costume designer and stylist, Tint took night classes at the Pratt Institute and the Brooklyn Museum Art School. She saved money, took off for six months and painted every day at the Art Students League of New York, where she now leads workshops.
“In the beginning, I was slightly embarrassed to be an abstract painter, because, at the time I was getting into it, it was a bit hardcore,” Tint said. “Women weren’t allowed into it as much. It was a big boy network.”
Tint credited art critic Clement Greenberg, who discovered Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler, for ushering her into the male-dominated style of abstract art.
“When Clement Greenberg came to my studio, that was sort of the beginning of me being noticed,” Tint said. “I think by being good at it, I was accepted. Almost like jazz musicians, you enter the abstract art club by being good. I was like a painter’s painter.”
In the past three decades, Tint’s work has appeared at galleries across the world, including in New York, California, Maryland, Texas, Florida, Portugal and Spain.
Her unique approach to creating art begins with the mixing of the colors, which typically takes longer than the actual painting.
“My painting process is kind of like Japanese cooking, where the preparation, the chopping and dicing, is done before and takes a long time and then it cooks a lot faster,” Tint said.
After finishing a painting, which takes anywhere from a few days to two months to complete, Tint, like a photographer, crops the picture.
“I work on unstretched canvases. It doesn’t have a parameter. When you’re working on a painting that is stretched on an easel, you have those ends defined. Painting on an unstretched canvas, there is not end. I can create the end. I can move in and crop the painting to the area that I like, which usually has the most color and motion,” Tint said.
Tint’s works at the Carnegie measure from 6 inches by 6 inches to 54 inches by 72 inches — sizes she described as “very small” to “medium” — with names ranging from “Fizz,” “Vinyl” and “Woman’s Kingdom” to “The Noise of Time,” “Negative Air” and “Highway Blues.”
She finds inspiration from memories, trips and the world around her.
“It could be something on the sidewalk that’s funny. It could be the beautiful sky. It could be the back of a truck. There are many things that inspire me. What I like are the bridges because the weather brings a rust to it. I’ll see the blue of the water, the color of copper and the rust and think, oh my gosh, that’s my next painting,” Tint said.
To view Tint’s creations, stop by the Carnegie from Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I hope people try not to read anything into the art because it takes away from the paintings. I just want them to kind of feel the painting,” Tint said.” Abstract is fun. It’s hard fun. It’s not an easy road, but it’s a good one.”
Along with the Carnegie, the Alabama Center for the Arts recently welcomed a new exhibit. “Continuation,” with pottery and quilts by Huntsville artist Guadalupe Lanning Robinson, will remain on display through July 1.
A native of Mexico City and resident of Alabama for more than three decades, Lanning Robinson combines the culture and tradition of Mexico and the deep South to create her pieces.
The Alabama Center for the Arts is open Monday to Wednesday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and Friday, 8 a.m.-noon. Due to concerns over the coronavirus, to enter the gallery, individuals must be wearing a mask, use hand sanitizer, answer questions, show an ID and undergo a temperature check.
One-on-One with Francine Tint
How did your work as a costume designer impact your art? It impacted it a lot. My paintings have a lot of layers, like clothing. What I realized is painters, like Rembrandt and Titian, they were like costume designers, too. They knew how to do velvets and zippers and layers.
How do you come up with the names of the paintings? The name always comes at the end. Again, the process is abstract. A feeling may come to me. A lot of them come from literature as well. I’ll make a list of names beforehand and, when I see a painting, I may attach one of those names to it. Or it may be a conversation with my assistant of what it looks like or feels like.
Has the coronavirus influenced what you are creating? I didn’t stop painting during the virus. I felt it was my duty to work. It was hard because I didn’t have my assistant and I couldn’t get supplies, but I felt it was my duty to create, because my work is about feelings at this time in history. I have noticed that my colors are darker, which is fine. All colors are fine. All feelings are fine.