At the foot of South Mountain in Edgewood, you may find a little bit of China. Packaged in the tiny body of Ming Franz is an enormous talent unable to be stilled.
She was born in Taiwan in 1948, the same year that China took over and occupied Taiwan. Her parents spoke only Japanese and the young Ming had to learn Chinese also.
She said her first exposure to art came from a neighbor who was a sculptor. As a child, she played around where he worked until one day he told her she played too much and she needed to learn. He was a willing teacher.
Years passed as she focused on watercolor painting, when her parents decided she should learn traditional Chinese painting, and enrolled her in an art class. That was the beginning of a desire that drove her from one avenue of study, to more and more and more. She could not be stilled in her quest to learn about her love—art.
At the young age of 18, she was granted a student visa to come to America and continue her education. Her first impression of America was in Santa Barbara, California. At this point she decided America was indeed beautiful, as she had imagined.
Ming met her first husband there. He was bilingual, and Chinese was his second language. She was ready to return to Taiwan when he proposed, and they married.
He had an advanced degree and worked for the defense department. This separated them for long periods, and the marriage ended in divorce. Ming lost her desire to paint and pursue her studies. Sadness filled her heart, that once was filled with art.
Time passed, and she worked, started over, worked some more. One day while out hiking, which is her second love, she met a man. She wasn’t sure she wanted to marry again, but he convinced her that they should.
In all of the time since her divorce she had not painted; and had no desire to do so. Then her husband bought her an art course as a birthday gift. She said, “I was angry! It was like he was forcing me to do it!”—but it was already paid for, so she went to class.
As she painted in class, that fire in her was once again ignited—a new beginning for Ming Franz as an artist.
She found the home at the base of South Mountain and they bought it instantly. It was some time before they could move here, and once again Franz had to start over.
Though she was well-known and established in California, she was an unknown here, and New Mexico was a different challenge. Chinese art, let alone Splash Ink, the technique she practices, were not the norm for Southwestern art and local galleries.
Franz had taught art before, and she began teaching again, along with showing her work, painting, and publishing a book and video about Splash Ink.
Art fills the walls of her home and roomy studio.
Publications and DVDs by Franz are stacked on shelves, along with many art reference books. A huge table fills the center of the room, on which she creates her paintings, exercises in controlled chaos.
She explained the process of creating each piece, using an unfinished work to illustrate. Beginning with black ink and randomly spreading it on several layers of rice paper, she then adds colors which soak through. It must then dry.
Then she turns it and studies it until an image comes into her mind. Then she brushes on shapes to enhance her idea, until that image appears. There is freedom of expression, imagination, and creativity in the Splash Ink process and Franz is uninhibited by boundaries. Sometimes her work is entirely abstract, other times it is not.
Hanging between two windows is a new painting on canvas, very different from her other work on paper. Dynamic color shouted from that canvas. Franz explained that she has recently begun to work more in acrylics.
Franz is no longer unknown in New Mexico or America. She has received many awards and recognitions locally and nationally, including the Grand Prize in International Artist Magazine’s challenge in abstract or experimental art.
She has taught workshops and demonstrations in the U.S. and abroad and is a signature member of the N.M. Watercolor Society, and is also a member of the National Watercolor Society, the Sumi-e Society of America, Chinese American Art Development Foundation, and the American Society Association of Chinese Art.
Franz has been featured in numerous publications, including Acrylic Artist Magazine, Artist Magazine, Southwest Art Magazine, Asian World Journal, International Artist Magazine and others.
To learn more about her art, visit mingfranzstudio.com.
Sonja Britton is a guest writer for The Independent. An artist and jewelry maker in her own right, she is a lifelong resident of Moriarty.