Lee Cutrone is a freelance writer and native New Orleanian who lives and works in the Crescent City. Fascinated by the decorative arts since childhood, she has circled the block on numerous occasions to get a second glimpse of a well-done house and writes about them for our pages. She appreciates a diversity of styles but says there are three things she especially likes included with a home of her own: A loving pet (or two), an aromatic sweet olive, and the nearby sounds of the Mississippi River.
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Several years ago, while assisting ceramic artist Lisa Alpaugh of LiBird Studio, Colleen Frampton found that clay was the perfect medium for her own art. Her first pieces were busts of her three young grandchildren, made by casting molds, then adorning each form with a decorative language drawn from each child’s personality.
“It’s a frozen moment in time, capturing the essence of that child wherever they are in their age,” says Frampton.
Those first forays into clay soon led to miniature busts reminiscent of fragments found on an archaeological dig — and the corresponding realization that each of Frampton’s works contained a fragment or piece of herself as well.
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The South Carolina native says the seed for her love of art was planted by her mother who was an artist and who experienced every avenue of art and craft she could.
“I loved smelling the scent of turpentine upstairs in her studio,” recalls Frampton, who grew up on Swan Lake Drive, from which she named her business, Swan Lake Studio (@swan.lake.studio).
Frampton pursued nursing as a career and has worked as a registered nurse at the St. Thomas Community Health Center since 2007 when her husband’s career as a pastor brought the couple to New Orleans. She recently cut back from full time to part time in order to devote more time to art.
As a nurse and an artist, she is fascinated by the human body.
“I’m not afraid of the body,” she says. “The body is beautiful and fascinating.”
She also finds inspiration in how we’ve arrayed the body throughout history with clothing, jewelry, shoes, military regalia and other outward forms.
“I like the elaborate details,” she says. “The designs are inspiring.”
Perhaps because her first works were representations of children, she says she likes her pieces to be whimsical. Some have flowers, vines or butterflies. Others are clothed in mosaics made from cuts of paper. The gold ones call to mind ancient breast plates of armor, or museum-like bits of sculpture mounted on stands. Her custom busts are literally imprinted with meaning. Herbs, flowers and paw prints with special significance have left their mark in her earthen keepsakes. Elements of the corporeal and therefore the temporal are incorporated into each Frampton creation. But what is really at play is the spiritual that lies within and Frampton plans to continue exploring where her “body of work” takes her.
“I’m still an emerging artist,” she says. “This is going to take me somewhere I don’t even know.”