Francie Bishop Good Is Artist in and Benefactor to Local Scene

Francie Bishop Good sits at the kitchen table in her spacious Fort Lauderdale art studio. Her cat, Pepper, comes up to the table, meows, and saunters away. Atop the table sits a nice helping of raspberries, blueberries, and pastries in white bowls. Good pours two cups of coffee and says: "I'm a Jewish grandmother. I always make sure my guests eat well."

Many South Florida artists know Good as a benefactor — in 2003, she cofounded Funding Arts Broward (FAB!), a nonprofit that has given $2 million in grants; and Girls' Club, a gallery she founded with her husband and Miami artist Michelle Weinberg to nurture the careers of female artists. But the "Jewish grandmother," 64, is also a painter and photographer herself. Her work is currently on display in an exhibit, "Not on Allen Street," that wraps up January 12 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood.

"When we were kids and would go to the grocery store," she remembers, "they would give us green stamps, and you would lick them into the books. You would collect them and you could buy things with them, so I got a camera. It was green, and it was a Brownie knockoff."

She studied at the Philadelphia College of Art and got her BFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the 1970s and an MFA from FAU. After her first marriage collapsed, the Pennsylvanian and mother of two moved in 1980 to Hollywood, Florida, where her parents lived, to seek solace. She was an art teacher in Broward County for seven years. Eventually, she met her current husband, David Horvitz, a prominent attorney and chairman of the board of the Museum of Art|Fort Lauderdale. Today the couple are arguably the most important patrons of the arts in Broward, though Good humbly waves away praise.

Although Good has done painting and drawing, she is best-known for her photographs — intimate shots that address life cycles and women's issues. "I've seen so much in my life, I'm interested in domestic things and family type of situations," she says. For the past five years, Good has taken pictures at Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center in Pembroke Pines, a shelter where women can stay with their children age 8 and younger while seeking drug treatment. "I go in there and take pictures of these women," the photographer explains. "Any money I make, I give it all back to the center."

Some images shot there are included in "Not on Allen Street," an exhibit referencing the Pennsylvania street where she grew up. One features a woman in recovery, holding her baby. A painful grimace graces her face. The image evokes both pain and relief, as though a better life awaits but the road there is hellish.

Images in the show are printed at a size of 50 inches wide. The selection was chosen by Good, along with Art and Culture curator Jane Hart and David Castillo, the Miami gallerist who represents Good. "There's a story in each photograph," Good explains. "Each one is finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Each one is like a book in itself. Vanessa Garcia wrote a novella about the photographs. It jars something in your memory, in your own life, and that's what I want. People will respond differently to each picture.

"It's been said that photographs you take of people are your own self-portraits, and it's also been said about painters that when they paint a portrait, it's actually of themselves. Well, that's arguable," she muses.

She collaborated with poet Victor Rodriguez Nunez for one of her shots. "In this photograph," she says pointing to an image of two old women sitting in a decrepit home, "this is his mother. He allowed me to photograph his family. That's his mother, and she died the next day.

"The thing about going out and photographing is it is like a hunt," Good says. "It's exciting. You don't know what you're getting into. Most photographs you take are horrible; it's only one in a thousand that's really good. So it's the excitement and challenge. As we say in the field, 'This is a really hard sport.' "

She stopped using film about five years ago. "My background is painting, so I've never been a purist," she explains. "I've worked in resins, drawing. I get bored quickly. I like to go back and forth — one informs the other — my love of art, collecting art, and knowledge of art shapes the way I see things."

She is currently working on a "Fusion" series, a photo collage that blends photography, painting, and drawing. She says she works every day — if not shooting, then reading art magazines or taking trips to New York to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and galleries in Chelsea.

Work by Girls' Club gallery director Sarah Michelle Rupert is also on display in the Art and Culture show. Rupert's exhibition, "In Search of Ever After," explores reactions to the mass-media messages women endure growing up consuming fairy tales and popular films. Rupert questions the meaning of traditional women's work and the value of such messages portrayed: Look beautiful! Meet your Prince Charming!

Her photographs feature her as the subject, dressed in costumes such as Snow White and Rapunzel, working laboriously in domestic scenes. She shoots the images using a timer, in which she as Snow White is seen doing dishes, a pile spilling over the counter as her back is turned to the viewer. A sense of struggle and an obsession to get it all clean is palpable.

Rupert thoughtfully contrasted her work with Good's: "I see where Francie documents real experiences that women are going through. And you look at my work and my work is very deliberate — these are real problems that these women are going through, but in a very fantastical way," she says.

"I think that the domestic space is where we learn our own neuroses," she says. "This expectation that eventually my happy ending will come, and my savior will come, sets us up to fail. [My work critiques] how these companies and organizations are shaping expectations and blurring the lines. 'Is this what I want? Or is this what I was told I wanted?' "

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Andrea Richard