Brandon’s Fran Bull shines at Mitchell Giddings in Brattleboro


BRATTLEBORO—Fran Bull is a restless artist. While many other artists have built comparably long careers on a single style, Bull’s trademark has been her willingness—her need—to adapt her hand to her thoughts. Whether it be through painting, printmaking, or sculpture, Bull is interested in giving visual expression to ideas, of which she is in no short supply. 

FRAN BULL STANDS with her painting “Evidence of the Invisible,” one of 13 paintings in her new series “Space: an odyssey.” Bull was inspired by images of outer space captured by the Webb Telescope. Her process in this series veered between chaos and control, letting the paint have its way in places and imposing her will in others. The show is at Mitchell Giddings Fine Art in Brattleboro through June 30.

Her new show, “Space: an odyssey” at Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts in Brattleboro, is the latest manifestation of her restlessness. The 13 new works in this series stem from earlier explorations in color, form, and texture—the “Magdalene” series now on exhibit at The Hub in Rutland—but take the process in a different direction.

“I am inspired by what we are seeing and learning from the James Webb Space Telescope,” writes Bull in her statement on the new show. The swirling clouds of space dust, the expanses of darkness dotted with stars…all of it led Bull to the intense, maximalist compositions at Mitchell Giddings. 

The process is simultaneously free and controlled. Bull lets the paint run and bleed and blend, adding layers and textures while still giving chance equal opportunity to make its mark. The result is images that are both happenstance and intentional. Large areas of chaotic color are juxtaposed with carefully plotted dots and dabs. It’s all quite freewheeling and exuberant.

“In these paintings, I celebrate the universe, our home, blazing with beauty and mystery.”

Bull’s last solo show in Brandon, “We’re All at a Party Called Life on Earth!” at the Compass Center, featured large, somewhat grotesque figural sculptures in bright carnival colors but also some paintings on paper that seem now to be the earliest seeds of this current abstraction. But this also seems to be how Bull’s artistry functions: aesthetic ideas evolve along with the narrative Bull tells herself about them. The abstracts at the Compass Center were tied to the grotesques—there were eyes floating in the webs of color, for example. Then the webs became tapestries with religious overtones in the “Magdalene” series now at The Hub. And, most recently, the compositions have morphed into galactic abstractions that capture some of the chaos of outer space. It’s impossible to know with Bull whether she’s reached the end of the story or is still just at the beginning.

(L TO R) “Orion’s Belt,” “Zodiac,” and “Sun Stone” from Bull’s newest series. These pieces are the lat- est manifestation of a fascination with gesture that Bull has shown for the past few years. Her “Mag- dalene” series of large paintings, which was the precursor to this, is on view at The Hub in Rutland.

“Space: an odyssey” runs through June 30 at Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts at 181-183 Main Street in Brattleboro, open Thurs – Sat 11 to 5, Sun 12 to 5. Bull will give an artist talk at the gallery on Saturday, June 8, from 4 to 6. Visit the website at for more images and details.

For anyone looking for a fun day trip, Brattleboro has a vibrant downtown full of shops, galleries, and restaurants. And the drive down, via Route 103, passes through some charming towns as well, such as Chester and Ludlow.

ONE OF BULL’S “Magdalene Cycle” paintings—this one titled “Sylvia.” These works were the pre- cursor to Bull’s latest series “Space: an odyssey.” The “Magdalene” pieces are on view at The Hub in Rutland, accompanied by some of Bull’s own poetry.
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