By Marilyn Delk
Pam Fraizer’s paintings currently on view at the Anna Bier Gallery were motivated by the isolation and depression brought on by the COVID pandemic. Her work as a graphic artist became non-existent during this time, as her clients, all performing organizations, were shut down and therefore did not need promotion or publicity. And then she realized that, as a resident of Richmond, Indiana, she was surrounded by the historic importance of Starr-Gennett recording studios,who recorded jazz, blues, and gospel artists that helped define American music for generations. So she was inspired to paint every day, creating portraits of the 33 men who recorded there, many of whom continue to be well-loved yet today.
Those portraits include many well-known names. Hoagy Carmichael first recorded his classic “Stardust” in Richmond. Louis Armstrong was not a solo artist at the time he was recorded in the Starr-Gennett studios, but a member of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band; portraits of both the beloved trumpet player and the band leader are featured here. A portrait of irrepressible pianist/composer “Fats” Waller is also on display, as are representations of famed saxophonist/clarinetist Sidney Bechet and Guy Lombardo, the band leader who serenaded generations of Americans every year on New Year’s Eve.
Singer, actor, and beloved comedian Jimmy Durante is also among those featured, his sparkling eyes and big nose leaving no doubt as to his identity. Blues and gospel singer/guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson and pioneer piano pounder Roosevelt Sykes are also among the legendary artists displayed.
However, this exhibit is entitled “Legends and Bombshells” legendary females’ portraits hang alongside the Starr-Gennett music legends.
According to Ms. Fraizer, “bombshell” is a term traditionally used to describe a woman’s physical beauty, but in reality, beauty lies within the women who accomplished amazing things with their diverse talents. Each female portrait on display is framed with meaningful words quoting a statement by the pictured subject. Two highly talented musicians are included: First Lady of Song Ella Fitzgerald and seductive songstress Eartha Kitt. The inspirational quote from Ella—”Just don’t give up trying to do what you want to do; where there is love and inspiration, you can’t go wrong”— and the words of Eartha –“It’s about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit”—demonstrate the contrasting philosophies of these iconic singers.
Anthropologist Jane Goodall may not meet the usual concept of bombshell, but this amazing woman known for her revolutionary studies of chimpanzees certainly fits Pam Fraizer’s description. Goodall’s thoughtful and inspiring words illuminate her philosophy of life: “Only if we understand we can care, only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” The statement of Native American composer/writer/political activist Zitkela-Sa (Lakota for Red Bird) reveals the beliefs underlying her activism and life’s work: “I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is paganism, I am a pagan.”
Pam has been “attempting to leverage her talent to accommodate a changing reality” ever since she graduated from Ball State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1971. She is currently Executive Director of the Art Association of Randolph County, which is located in Union City’s historic Depot building. Her mission is to provide “a resource for art and art experiences to all the residents of Randolph County.” The colorful works displayed at the Anna Bier Gallery offer an insightful look at fascinating figures, providing a deeper experience than might first be perceived when viewing the fun-to-look-at pieces.
This show featuring Pam Fraizer ‘s acrylic paintings will open this Saturday, November 11 at 6 p.m. at the Anna Bier Gallery, located within Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall, and will continue on display through December 16. The Anna Bier Gallery is open Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., but will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday on November 25.