Tom Francis arrived in Atlanta in 1978 from his native Wisconsin, three art degrees in hand, to take a professorship at the Atlanta College of Art, subsequently the Savannah College of Art and Design. The move proved a revelation and provoked a radical change in his art from work that the artist describes as “moody, dark, and intellectual, reflective of the Wisconsin winters” to a joyous reflection of the saturated light, lush flora, and exotic fauna of the Deep South. Francis, who had intended to become a biologist, only discovered art during his sophomore year of college in an introductory course. He went on to earn three degrees in art.
Defined by their vivid color, multilayered patterning, variety of motifs, and lavish application of paint, Francis’s paintings are by turns lyrical, provocative, and complex, but always a celebration of paint and of life itself.
His early love of animals found expression in his paintings, which often include stylized motifs representative of a range of creatures from turtles and dragonflies to birds, cows, and fish. Motifs crystallize from the artist’s experiences. An early Atlanta memory of a long queue of yellow school buses parked outside the Woodruff Arts Center found expression in some of the paintings. Pyramids, palms, and reefs entered the work after diving trips in the Caribbean and visits to Yucatan. Atlanta’s historic Oakland cemetery made an appearance, as did suburban dining rooms whose windows reveal the riotous “southern” nature outside. Above all, the imagery fuels the explosion of color that is central to the artist’s work.
Tom Francis’s work has been exhibited the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Georgia Museum of Fine Art, Athens, Georgia; Chapelle de la Sorbonne, Paris; Palazzo di Venezia, Rome; and elsewhere. His work can be seen in numerous private, public, and corporate collections.