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Check out Fran Sampson’s Artwork

Today we’d like to introduce you to Fran Sampson.

Fran, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Although I was born in St Louis, I’ve lived in the Chicago area for the better part of my life. I received both my BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. That was a great time of art immersion, and after graduating there were loans to pay off, kids to raise, and just life. Although I have had many different art-related jobs, my professional career has revolved around teaching. I taught Humanities at Oakton College as an Adjunct faculty member for three years before teaching art full time in high school. I have recently retired and am able to work on my own art full time. I’m now able to show work regularly, which is a great pleasure to return to. I currently live with my husband and our dog in Oak Park, and wonderfully close to both my daughters and granddaughters.

We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
For the past three years, I have been working on a series of mixed media paintings that can loosely be called landscapes. I use color, brush stroke, and texture to create an ambiguous spacial field that moves across rather than into the canvas. I sometimes use torn word fragments, barcodes, and stamped symbols as stand-ins for humans and elements of society.

I called the series Red Letter Days because that title reflects the celebratory nature of my work when I began the series. My work is currently going through another change, reflecting the fractured state America is in. In my most recent paintings, layers of paint serve to alternately hide and reveal symbolic shapes, reflecting the on-going struggle women face in a patriarchal society, at times victorious and other times seemingly defeated. Any break or fracture in the status quo can result in either greater opportunity or more oppression for those lower down the hierarchical ladder of power.

Currently, America seems ruptured, even broken. Yet, through that fissure light is shed not only on America’s hatred and bigotry but also on its love and resilience. My exploration of these themes will always be present in work, whether abstract or otherwise.

Do current events, local or global, affect your work and what you are focused on?
The rise of hate groups and the rollback of civil liberties in this country has deeply affected my work. Prior to the 2016 election, my work had an almost festive feel to it and my main concern was with the aesthetics of the piece.

Since the election, the United States has seen an increase in hate speech and attacks across the board, which were already (and always were) at an unacceptable state–any hatred and cruelty is unacceptable and unfortunately, the flames are currently being fanned. Attacks against women, people of color, LGBTQ+ community members, and immigrants are intolerable, and I believe it is important to fight bigotry, violence, and oppression at every intersection at which it lives. As a white woman, some of these intersections are personal, and some are areas where I can use my privilege to hopefully affect change.

In my work, I try to layer symbols and utilize an expressive use of materials to create a dialogue about the layers and complexity of our culture, and its timelines of progressive rollbacks and achievements. I also try my best to continue to create celebratory work as well–we can’t forget to love and honor each other and this planet while we’re in the fight.

Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I have shown my work in galleries in and around Chicago including the Art Institute Museum, the Koehnline Museum of Art, Bridgeport Art Center, Riverside Art Center’s Freeark Gallery, the Oak Park Art League’s Carriage House Gallery, ARC,and Woman Made Gallery.

I currently have three paintings in the show My Kids Could/ Could Not Do That: Accomplished Abstraction where I was honored to receive First Place. The work will be up thru March 2 at the Oak Park Art League Carriage House Gallery. You can view my work anytime (as well as news about upcoming shows and openings) on my website:

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Bryan Northup at our Duo Show at Oak Park Public Library

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Madelyn Thompson

    February 20, 2019 at 3:06 am

    Love this artist’s work. If I were an abstract artist, this would be exactly the kind of aesthetic that I would like to achieve. The sensibility behind the work is admirable and comes from the soul. Fran is a true talent and also a lovely person.

  2. Elizabeth Coughlin

    February 20, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Voyage Chicago,
    Thank you for this article. Fran Sampson’s words as well as her work are profound and inspirational.


    February 22, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Thank you, Fran, for your imaginative creations and your insightful remarks. Keep up the great work!

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