Helen La France (Kentucky, 1919-2020) oil on canvas (stretched on board) panoramic painting depicting muddy floodwaters sweeping away a house, tree limbs, and other various objects. The swollen river is surrounded by barren trees with a flat landscape and cloudy horizon beyond. Signed "Helen La France" lower right. Unframed. 24" H x 48" W. Biography: African American artist Helen LaFrance is best known for her "memory paintings," based on her 101 years of life in Graves County, Kentucky. Her parents, James Franklin Orr and Lillie May Ligon Orr, were tobacco farmers, and Helen spent most of her life no more than ten miles from her birthplace in Mayfield. Her mother taught her to draw and paint, helping her mix colors from wildflowers, berries, and laundry detergent, but she did not begin painting full time until her 40s, when she started selling her work at local art shows and fairs. Her subjects mostly focused on scenes of ordinary rural life, such as church picnics and river baptisms, although she occasionally portrayed dramatic events in the life of her community, such as tornadoes and floods, and African scenes inspired by her family's ancestral heritage. Lafrance's work (which also comprised quilts, wood carvings, and dolls) began attracting nationwide interest in the 1990s, and with a burgeoning market of collectors that included famous names such as Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King and Bryant Gumbel, she continued painting well into advanced age. In 2011 she received Kentucky's Folk Art Heritage Award. Her work recently became the subject of a retrospective at the Speed Museum in Louisville, and is also in the permanent collections of the St. Louis Art Museum and the Owensboro KY Museum of Fine Art.
Canvas has been stapled to a board backing. In very good condition with some spots of grime and a couple areas of scratching, largest 1" lower margin.
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Private Middle Tennessee collection, acquired at an estate auction circa 2018.