A native South Carolinian, Fran Gardner lives in Heath Springs. She earned her BFA from Columbia College (1982) and later, her MFA from Vermont College of Norwich University (1993). She is professor emerita of art and art history at the University of South Carolina Lancaster where she taught studio courses and art history for 32 years. Gardner has gained attention in mixed media collage. She paints and draws with traditional materials, but also with the sewing machine, layering her work with rich texture, color and mark-making. In addition to creating and exhibiting her work, she writes critical essays about art, leads retreats, teaches workshops, and judges and curates exhibitions. Her work has been exhibited regionally and nationally and published in Fiberarts and Needle Arts magazines and in the books Crafting Personal Shrines, by Carol Owen, The Art of Textiles, by Mary Schoeser and Scanning the Hypnoglyph: Sleep in Modernist and Postmodern Representation, by Nathaniel Wallace.
Gardner has won a variety of awards in competitive exhibits both statewide and nationally. In addition she has exhibited at numerous art centers and museums across the US. In 2019 she was inducted into the National Association of Women Artists in New York. A career highlight was the invitation to be a United States National Park Artist-In-Residence at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico in 2012.
Petroglyphs, architecture, graffiti – examples of our collective human urge to leave an imprint. These relics are historical records with a tenacious existence. Think the caves of Lascaux, the pyramids, and the surfaces of train cars. Often using references to language systems and codes, my work speaks to the human urge for mark leaving, referring to that enduring historical record while simultaneously becoming a part of it. The materials, not rock, brick, or steel, but rather fabric, thread, and paint translate into an intimate and ephemeral account of my perception of our shared history, present and future.
…which draws the viewer almost unaware into a universe submerged by time, memory and place. A sea of petroglyphs, ancient text, celestial calendars, medieval tarot cards, maps, numbers, even compute motherboards, all of which speak to a universal, timeless language, encases Gardner’s hand-drawn human form like a soft carapace."