Frantz Lexy is a lovely person and an amazing artist whose work will be in museums around the world before you know it. This is another interview that’s been sitting in my voice memos for quite a few months because I got so swamped with school and health issues last semester that my blog (and most other things) fell by the wayside. I’m very excited to share our interesting conversation several months later.
Ally: My first question for you is what has been fulfilling you lately?
Frantz: Painting and hanging out with friends.
A: How long have you been painting?
F: Close to two years.
A: What made you start?
F: So last year, there was a record-breaking snow and I was locked in the house. I figured, “Hey, might as well start doing something useful,” and that’s when I started painting.
A: What do you like about painting?
F: It’s very relaxing and therapeutic. I can process my anger, my joy, my frustrations. It’s a win-win for however I’m feeling.
A: Who or what are your main inspirations?
F: Nature is a big part of it. And Kanye West.
A: How does Kanye West inspire you?
F: He’s very egocentric, and I’m not egocentric, but I feel like to create art and to make things that are effective, you do have to have a certain amount of confidence. When I’m in my room and I have my headphones on and I’m painting, I want to put myself in that state of mind where I’m like, “I’m the shit. I’m better than everyone else and I’m going to do something amazing.” And of course I’m not gonna be screaming that to everyone because I only put that in my head so I can make something that’s good. I think Kanye West is a huge inspiration because he’s very talented. Not only because of his own art, but because I’ve always wanted to be versatile in what I do.
A: How has your art changed over the past two years?
F: I’ve been spending more time with each individual piece. It’s still changing a lot. I haven’t really been producing a specific style, so it’s been constantly changing ever since I started.
A: Do you feel like you’ve found your style?
F: No. I’ve found my style for now, but it’s probably going to evolve and change. Last night I was painting something and I was like, “Oh wow, this could be a brand new style.” I always try to evolve the style constantly.
A: Aside from nature, are there any themes that come up a lot in your art?
F: I try to mix things that have contradicting perspectives and piece them together. I’ve always wanted to create images of extreme poverty and extreme luxury. At one point I wanted to create a whole blog with images: on the left I’d have extreme poverty and on the right I’d have extreme luxury. You know, people coming out of their Mercedes and jewelry and all that. That’s kind of what I like about art in general, especially visual art. I don’t have to put any words to it. I feel like we’re visual creatures and we react to that more immediately. I would love to get to a point where I can make more political or social commentary in my art.
A: What kind of commentary?
F: Inequality. Religion. I was raised Catholic for the most part. Up to the age of 15, I went to an all boys’ school, so I have strong opinions about religion.
A: Are you religious?
F: I am not.
A: Do you believe in God?
A: Do you believe in ghosts?
F: Depends on what you think a ghost is. I don’t think I believe in ghosts. No.
A: What are some of your favorite paintings that you’ve done and why?
F: I have a huge geometric painting that I did. I called it “Lucid Dreaming.” It was one of the very first large paintings that I’ve done, and I did it the night before school, when I stayed up until 3 in the morning working on it. What I like about that style is that I apply tape on the canvas and then the next day, I remove the tape, and the image is also something that’s new to me when I pull off the tape. I like that a lot because it’s very trippy. I like things that are trippy. It also has an abstract landscape in it. It is very abstract, but the image suggests a landscape, and with that geometric shape in there, it’s kind of how I see nature in my mind.
A: How come you called it “Lucid Dreaming?” Can you lucid dream?
F: Yes I can. I used to a lot when I was a child. I’m very into dreams. I called that piece “Lucid Dreaming” because there’s a certain abstraction to it. It’s very unreal but also it’s very relatable.
A: How do your background and your life inform your art? Do you feel that your pieces are autobiographical or not really?
F: Some of them are. I have a few paintings of myself and friends and family. I try not to make them too much about my own personal life.
F: I don’t really like to talk about my personal life that much. Or if I do talk about myself in my paintings, it’s a bit more broad, and it can apply to other people as well.
A: Is that because you want your art to be more relatable, or because you don’t want people to know that much about you?
F: Well, I guess it would also go back to my motive for creating art. A lot of the art that I do is expressing why I appreciate nature. It’s sort of my way of paying homage to nature and saying how much I like it. I think nature itself is art. That’s how I see it. I try to capture that in my work. So I guess you could say it’s autobiographical.
A: In your opinion, what makes something good art?
F: I’m still trying to figure that out. I think good art should be provocative. I think someone should find aspects of themselves in it. I was in a gallery the other day and I saw this piece of art. I’m very much into clouds, and it was this huge abstract piece, but it had a cloud in it. And I was like, “Wow, this is so dope.” I met the artist’s wife and found out that the artist himself had passed away, and it was his wife that did the curation. I talked to her and she was telling me what he was like and what he was into. She was very friendly, and I thought it was sort of weird that I met this person through this one painting and how I related to it. I feel like someone being able to find themselves through your art even though you’re not there anymore…that’s why I create.
A: What are your goals for your art and for yourself as an artist?
F: I want to make a living out of art. I wouldn’t want to be known for making political art because when I do make political art, I want it to stand out. I feel like if something political comes from someone who’s not political, it would make people stop and say, “Wait a minute—if this guy’s talking about it, maybe we should listen.”
A: Is there such a thing as a person who’s not political? I don’t think you can exist as a person and not be political.
F: Well, if you see this bee painting, it’s not political at all. But while I was making it, I was watching this documentary about bees and how they’re disappearing, and how we’re destroying them.
A: So it is political!
F: Yes, it is political. I would say so. But it’s not what we’d think of when we think of something that’s obviously political. I have a lot of ideas for politically charged, controversial paintings that I would want to make.
A: Like what?
F: Again, going back to religion, I want to make a painting of someone praying to an upside down cross in a church. I would also want to make a Renaissance-style painting of a black Jesus on a cross and having white people very expressively reaching out towards him. I would also want to make paintings of the president of the United States making a speech, and he would have a ski mask on his face.
F: Because politicians are the biggest crooks out there. I do have a lot to say, but if I make things like that, I kind want them to be unexpected. The long-term goal is to provoke people.
A: Provoke people to think about things, or to organize, or what?
F: To think about things. Most of the time I’m not really vocal with my political views, simply because if I’m going to be vocal about something, I’m gonna be very vocal. I like to say, “eff you” to the man, but that’s not really what I’m about. That’s part of what I do, but that’s not only what I want to do. There are always going to be bad things out there, but I want to create things in which people can find peace. I want them to look at my art and say, “Oh, this is pretty,” and they can forget about all the nonsense out there.
A: I feel like you’re kind of saying contradictory things and I’m confused.
F: I do want to make art that is political, but not a lot of it. I really like to make things that are aesthetically pleasing.
A: Is that not political too?
F: I don’t think so. If I paint a picture of the president wearing a ski mask, then it’s only political. But if I paint a bee, yes, it’s political, but it can be not political if someone else looks at it.
A: It’s about interpretation though. So even if you paint something and you don’t intend it to be political, it can still be political because of how people interpret it.
F: Yes. But if I paint an aquarium, even if my motivation for doing it is a want to preserve nature, if I bring it into a kindergarten, within that environment it’s not political at all. It’s just fun.
A: And that’s what you want to do?
F: That’s what I would want to do. It kind of goes back to Kanye West. When he was on television and said, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” it was kinda like woah! Where did that come from?
A: I mean, Kanye does have a history of being pretty outspoken.
F: Yeah, but I’m speaking about that particular moment. It was like, where did that come from? I want to get to the point where I’m making a bunch of little landscapes with rainbows and everything, but I want to be able to drop a painting of someone praying to an upside down cross so people will be like, “Woah.” Whereas if people are used to seeing something that’s controversial, it won’t really provoke them as much, I feel.
A: I guess within the context of your work, that’s true, but in the context of art as a whole, I don’t think that’s true.
F: With art, who the art comes from is part of how effective it is.
A: How does that relate to your art?
F: If I’m not known to be a political painter and I do make something that is political, then the fact that political art is coming from someone who’s not political…I feel like that in itself is a statement, and that plays in the minds of people looking at the art.
A: Do you do any other creative things besides painting and drawing?
F: I write sometimes, although I used to write more often. And believe it or not, I think I make art on my snapchat account. Video art. I think it’s performance art.
A: How is that, and your writing, similar or different from painting?
F: I think they’re similar because I like to make things that are weird. Also I like to put things together that are contradictory. With my writings and my videos, I like to have a certain amount of innocence and something childlike to it.
A: I feel like it’s not that innocent.
F: Sometimes it is. Like with the aquarium painting and the bee painting, it’s a lot of flowers and birds and whatnot. I try to create things that are innocent. I have this little fairytale story about a little bird named Exodus, and it was very innocent. “Once upon a time, there was a little bird named Exodus who lives in the jungle.” But it ended very bloody and messed up. So I like to make things that are contradictory, so in that way, they’re similar. The difference…I don’t think I’m that good of a writer.
A: What makes good writing?
F: Well, first of all, I don’t know a lot of words. I’m not great at communicating with words. I can be sometimes, but it’s not really my strong point.
A: Do you find that expressing yourself through painting or images is easier?
F: Yes. I feel like videos, too, going back to snapchat…
A: What kind of videos do you make on snapchat?
F: Weird. Funny sometimes, but for the most part I try to confuse people so they’ll think, “Is this guy innocent or not?” And even sometimes with my views on religion…if you look at my snapchat, I always post pictures of Jesus on the cross when I go by it downtown, and I try to make it very ambiguous as to what my position is on religion. The statue is green, but sometimes I say, “Hey, this statue is inaccurate because Jesus is a white man with blue eyes and blond hair.”
A: What impact do you think your art has on other people?
F: I hope that I’ve inspired some people, maybe not in a major way, but I’d like to inspire people to do something creative, or just do something. Like Shia Laboeuf said, “Just do it.” Painting was something I always wanted to do, but I just kept pushing it back. But then one day, I just decided to start. Not everyone likes it, but there are a lot of people who like some of my art. I like being able to put something out there and having someone say, “Oh wow, I like this.” I don’t know how much value that has for them, but for them to see something they like, and for me to find pleasure in creating it…I think it’s a win-win situation.
A: What else makes you happy?
F: Listening to music, and white puffy clouds. I know it sounds weird but I’m very much into that.
A: What do you like about them?
F: Clouds never look the same. They’re always different, with the texture of the sky and their position. I feel like it’s God himself making abstract art in the sky, and it’s cool to look at.
You can check out Frantz’s art on instagram @ominous.cloud, or on display at 290 Congress St. in Boston until April 1st.