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The Return of the Frazetta Art Gallery!

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The Return of the Frazetta Art Gallery!

By Steve Ringgenberg 

 

 February 2022 brought a welcome event, the triumphant reopening of the Frazetta Art Gallery in Boca Grande, Florida, the second museum in the country devoted to the work of the master fantasy artist. Situated on a busy street in the middle of the charming city of Boca Grande, the gallery is where Frank spent  of the last year of his life and is right across the street from the Temptation restaurant where he enjoyed dining on raw oysters. For his many friends and fans, it’s comforting to know that Frank Frazetta spent his declining year in such a beautiful spot, sunny, quiet, with lovely tree-lined streets, surrounding by loving family members.

The museum remained closed in 2020-2021 because of the Covid Pandemic, but this year, the Frazetta Girls, Sara Frazetta and her mother, Holly, were determined to reopen the gallery, if only for a short period. For Frazetta fans, it’s an essential destination, since it contains dozens of pieces of Frazetta artwork, paintings, newspaper strips, comic book pages, and a nice selection of personal artwork Frazetta executed as gifts for his wife, Ellie, and other family members. The personal work on display gives viewers a true feeling of intimacy, of being part of Frazetta’s inner circle, since most of them have never been reprinted. Another aspect of the collection is a real treat for Frazetta connoisseurs, on display is a collection of the master’s used paint brushes and paint tubes and even one of his well-used palettes. I don’t know about you, but I get a thrill just being around the tools my art heroes use to execute their artistic alchemy. I felt the same sensation seeing Monet’s palette and pallet knife in a museum years ago, or standing next to the platform Alfonse Mucha used to paint his monumental Slav Epic canvases, which was in a villa where fifteen of the Slav Epic paintings were on display. In the same glass cabinets that contained Frank’s artistic tools, were a selection of his beloved cameras, with which he took countless pictures over the years, even maintaining his own darkroom in the Frazettas’ home in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Another charming feature of the gallery is the presence of an album of Frazetta family photos, which gives further insight into the life of this beloved artist.

The interior walls are partially raw brick, which provides a harmonious background on which to display the assembled art treasures. Among the paintings currently on display in the gallery (all from the collection of Holly Frazetta) are: Scramble from the Battlestar Galactica TV series, Downward to the Earth (a rare semi-abstract work), the reworked version of Dancer from Atlantis, The Bear (from Frazetta’s second series of Ace Books Burroughs covers, a realistic portrait of Jesus Christ, which Frank did as an Easter present for Ellie, Neanderthals, the Creepy magazine cover that Frank bashed out in six hours on a piece of Masonite, thus setting a pattern for future works executed on this hardboard since Frazetta discovered that he really liked working on this surface because of its inexpensiveness and durability. (By the way, in case you didn’t already know this, Frazetta executed very few paintings on stretched canvas, preferring to work either on canvas board or Masonite.) Some of the other works on display include Flashman on the Charge, Man-Ape, one of the master’s definitive depictions of Conan, Castle of Sin, from Playboy, Dark Kingdom, from Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane series. Death Dealer II is another wildly popular canvas on display, while Rogue Roman shows Frazetta’s skill at depicting quieter historical scenes. On the opposite wall from these works there is a lovely portrait of Ellie Frazetta, and at the other end of the same wall is one of the most striking works on display, Frazetta’s 1962 self-portrait, whose piercing green eyes seem to bore into the eyes of anyone viewing it. Not mounted on a wall but present in the collection is Frazetta’s savage Mongol Warrior, another piece that graced the cover of Creepy magazine. There were a number of personal works inside the museum that hadn’t been mounted on the wall yet, and it was a treat to pour through these rarely-seen, gem-like watercolors.

In addition to these paintings and others, the gallery contains a splendid selection of “Johnny Comet” dailies, showcasing Frazetta’s superlative inking and peerless command of comic book action. The collection also includes one of Frazetta’s gorgeous pen and ink illustrations from Tarzan and the Castaways. His work from this period is considered some of his very best by Frazetta afficionados. Of interest to Frazetta historians are pages from “Snowman”, Frazetta’s earliest published comic book work (done in collaboration with a more experienced artist named John Guinta). Fans wanting to see more of Frazetta’s comic book work could peruse a binder containing original comic book pages in plastic sleeves. Frazetta’s work for Galaxy Press was represented by a bold bronze depicting his cover for Battlefield Earth, and there was also a smaller statue of his famous Death Dealer. One of the evening’s highlights came courtesy of John and Emily Goodwin of Galaxy Press, who brought along a rare treat, one of only two video interviews Frank Frazetta ever did, and by far the best one. It was taped at the 1988 Writers of the Future Conference. In the interview, Frazetta, handsome in his tuxedo, expounded on how he created his masterpieces, and other topics. Since the interview was conducted before Frazetta’s health problems slowed him down and altered his appearance, this is probably the only chance most fans will ever get to see him in his prime, unless you had already met him in person.
In addition to the paintings and comic strips, there’s enough pencil art on display to demonstrate Frazetta’s absolute mastery of that medium as well, including a gorgeous drawing of Vampirella and several of the illustrations featured in Illustrations Arcanum, a collection of all pencil drawings executed near the end of his career. Perhaps the most poignant work of art on display is the painting originally used for the April, 1971 cover of National Lampoon, executed as a straightforward parody of the old adventure pulps, depicting a stalwart, pith-helmeted hero battling a tribe of African natives bent on sacrificing a beautiful blonde. Frazetta had previously reworked this painting changing the hero’s costume and pose, and totally reworking the blonde victim. Before his death, Frazetta took another pass at this painting, reworking the female figure yet again. Alas, Frazetta passed away before completing the revision and it is on display in its unfinished state. Sara Frazetta is of the opinion that her grandfather was trying to make the female figure look like his late wife Ellie, and the incomplete figure does resemble Ellie Frazetta in a general way, more so than either of the earlier versions of the woman. However, there is sits, displayed on an easel behind the gallery’s front counter, a sad reminder of an artistic giant who’s no longer with us, who can no longer dazzle our senses with his peerless grasp of figures in motion, sharp compositions, and innovative use of color.
Holly Frazetta, Sara Frazetta, John Goodwin and Emily Goodwin

The opening night on February 4th this year was a fun, though somewhat low-key affair, with catered food and a diverse assemblage of invited guests, family members, and avid fans who made the trek to Florida to view Frazetta’s work in person. Among the guests were two representatives from the Hubbard organization who brought with them a rare treat, one of the only videotaped interviews with Frazetta in which he discussed his work, his thought processes, and other topics sure to be of interest to his army of fans. During the course of the day, people wandered in and out, some taking the time to perch on the many comfortable chairs inside for extended stays, drinking in the art, or going outside to the lovely tropical back patio on bar where there was an array of food and drink for everyone to sample. Adding to the family feel of the event, Holly Frazetta, Sara’s mom, brought her adorable terrier Spanky, while Heidi, Sara’s aunt (Holly’s younger sister), brought her own loveable pooch, Hank, a beautiful black miniature bulldog who added to the fun by escaping from his dog pen.

 

Aside from the Frazetta sisters, Holly’s three daughters were also there: Sara, the co-hostess, and her younger sisters Brittany and Rachel. Heidi’s two children Jacob and Jessica attended as well. After interacting with all of them, it’s easy to see that good looks run in the Frazetta family. Holly Frazetta in particular was a charming and gregarious co-hostess, circulating among the crowd and making everyone feel welcome. Sara, the originator of the Frazetta girls, is an ideal ambassador for her grandfather’s work. Intelligent, articulate, and model beautiful, with her grandfather’s distinctive green eyes, her warmth and humor helped make the evening feel really special.

While the gallery is closing at the end of March, there is talk of possibly taking the collection on the road to some conventions or other venues. If you didn’t make it this year, don’t despair, it will reopen next year, hopefully for a longer period. The Frazetta Art Gallery is located at 383 Park Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida, 33921. When it is in operation, the gallery is open by appointment only. To schedule an appointment or get more information, go to museum@frazettagirls.com.  

1 comment

  • Diane Merritt: April 18, 2022

    Can you tell me the days and hours of operation please. My husband is a huge fan and I would love to bring him for his birthday.
    Thank you

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