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John Frame with the Cast of Poor Tom’s Library

John Frame with the Cast of Poor Tom’s Library, photo by Ashley Fennell [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Feb 18-May 27] Photo by Ashley Fennell

John Frame: Three Fragments of a Lost Tale

Portland Art Museum
Portland OR – Feb 18-May 27, 2012

John Frame, Mr R in the Portico

John Frame, Mr R in the Portico (2006-2011), wood, fabric, glass eyes and found objects over stainless steel armature [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Feb 18-May 27] © John Frame

John Frame, D’Artand Confronts the Tottentanzers

John Frame, D’Artand Confronts the Tottentanzers (2011), still from animation [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Feb 18-May 27]

Five years in the making, John Frame’s ongoing project The Tale of the Crippled Boy is to eventually become an ambitious feature-length production combining animation and live film. His individually hand-crafted figurines, made of intricately carved wood, found objects, sewn clothing and often glass eyes are set in a world of poetic encounters that are both haunting and beautiful. Each of the characters – some as small as four inches – is fully articulated, with moving limbs, fingers and jaws that come alive in the stop-motion animations.

The sense of fantasy is further heightened by imaginative diorama-like settings and props. These are fully realized with incredible detail and in some cases photographed in a larger-than-life perspective. His fascinating stage-like display is reminiscent of an elaborate puppet theatre, and his stories of the human condition resonate with spirituality and mortality.

A short film accompanying the exhibit, entitled In Medias Res, provides a glimpse of Frame’s extended vision and shows the journey and personality of some of these characters. General themes of loss and discovery, struggle, hope and transformation are present in a loose allegorical way. As a result of Frame’s compelling detail, it would be easy to string together an imagined storyline. In this way, the viewer’s own perception and experience can add another layer of depth to the already profound artwork.

Allyn Cantor


 Thu, Apr 5, 2012