Frank Herrmann, professor of fine art in the University of Cincinnati’s top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, has just won the recognition of a lifetime – a Guggenheim Fellowship!
|Frank Herrmann in his Northside studio. Behind him are a few of his Asmat-inspired paintings.|
“I never thought something like this would happen to me in my life,” said Herrmann. “I get excited about my work all the time, but I spend so much time alone with it in the studio that I really don’t expect other people to do so,” he admitted.
|Selections from Frank Herrmann's Asmat art collection|
His work – color-filled, abstract images – reflects and explores the people, culture, motifs and myths of Papua New Guinea. “With my paintings, I’ve been asking, ‘What would happen if the Asmat warrior/artist and I were to meet within the space of this painting?’ It’s not meant to be soothing. I'm not interested in paintings that try to be soothing. I think that a painting should be difficult to look at and consider.”
|One of Herrmann's large-scale paintings inspired, in part, by an Asmat warrior shield.|
His obsession has taken Herrmann throughout Europe and North America in order to view prestigious international collections of Asmat art. For instance, during summer 2001, Herrmann was able to slip away from a prestigious Czech artist-in-residence program where he was working to visit the Ethnogaphic Museum in Heidelberg, Germany, home to an outstanding collection of Asmat art.
“I walked up and down the street in Heidelberg to find this museum,” Herrmann recalled. “I couldn’t find the right street number but finally found someone who knew where it was. Then, I was standing in the courtyard of the museum only to find that it was closed for two weeks.”
|Herrmann holds an Asmat warrior shield from his collection. Behind him is one of his Asmat-inspired, large-scale paintings|
“The driver went in, and the next thing I know, the director of the museum was running through the building flipping on all the lights. She told me to take my time and look at the works – most of which were not under glass – for as long as I liked and only to let them know when I was leaving so they could turn off the lights. It was wonderful,” Herrmann recounted. “I could sit with the pieces for as long as I wanted with no interruption, no one else needing to see them. I was so close, I could smell the wood of the canoes.”
With the cash prize of the fellowship, Herrmann will likely travel again, this time to locales that include Fiddletown, California, and Basel, Switzerland, to view other Asmat collections. “I’m anxious to continue being influenced by the Asmat culture for as long as it has this hold on me,” he explained.
He also plans to devote himself to painting in the Czech Republic. He has to. “If I don’t paint, I really get nasty,” he confessed. “I’m totally addicted so I look for any excuse to paint. I like the material of paint. I like the smell of it, the touch of it. I like being in that place. In fact, I buy materials by the bucket load just so I won’t have to leave the studio for a long time.”
|Herrmann seated in front of one of his large-scale, Asmat-inspired paintings.|
Throughout his career, Herrmann’s devotion to painting has brought him regional, national and international exhibits. In addition, he has often been recognized through competitive grants and awards. Today, his work is to be found in private collections throughout the U.S. as well as in collections in France, the Czech Republic, Italy and Australia.
The full list of year 2006 Guggenheim Fellows is at http://www.gf.org/newfellow.html