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Helen LaFrance (1919 - ) Helen LaFrance is a renowned Kentucky folk artist who has been painting since she was five. Born in Graves County, her works reflect images from memories of Western Kentucky farm-life. She received no formal art instruction and never attended high school; it was her mother who inspired the young LaFrance, placing a pencil in the child’s hand and instructing her to paint what she saw, then helping to gently guide Helen’s hand across the paper. LaFrance’s first work was a large gray rabbit painted on the back of a leftover piece of wallpaper with watercolors given to her by her aunt. LaFrance remembers how her mother kept her supplied in paints by blending laundry bluing with dandelions and berries. LaFrance practices a type of folk art called, “Memory Painting,” in which the artist records her autobiography in beautiful visual images. For many years, LaFrance has painted memories of a lifestyle that is rapidly disappearing. Her paintings portray scenes of Southern farm images, such as farmers plowing in the field, church picnics, cotton fields, and river baptisms. Her signature painting, “Church Picnic,” is of a time that is dear to her. Everyone she paints depicts a different mood. LaFrance’s paintings have been featured in galleries in Richmond, Ky., Columbus, Ga., and St. Louis, Mo. Her biography is featured in a book written by Kath Moses, “Outsider Art Of The South.” According to art dealers, her paintings have been purchased by such celebrity collectors as Oprah Winfrey and Bryant Gumbel. Of her art, LaFrance says with modesty: “I just do what I do. I thought if I kept doing it, one day I’d do something worthwhile.” She has an art gallery in the historic downtown section of Mayfield, Ky.
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