Revisiting beginnings

Lillia Frantin and Herb Edwards work on exhibit at Brookdale CVA

BY MARIE MABER Correspondent

It’s been called a pipe dream and a fantasy. Not many of us can leave our places of employment to take off to a remote location and pursue our heart’s desire.

"Cape Sunset" by Herb Edwards “Cape Sunset” by Herb Edwards Meet Herb and Lil, two artists who left their “day jobs” in the early 1990s and actually have succeeded as painters, making a significant contribution to the visual arts along the way.

Brookdale’s Art Department has begun a series of annual exhibitions titled “Distinguished Contribution to the Visual Arts.” The first exhibition in this series showcases paintings by former faculty members Lillia Frantin and Herb Edwards and will be on view Oct. 18-Nov. 14 in the CVA Gallery.

The opening reception will be held 5:30-8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 18. This event is free and open to the public.

Edwards received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico in 1963. Frantin graduated from [then] Monmouth College in 1966. They both earned master’s degrees from Pratt Institute in the early 1970s.

As professors of art for more than 20 years at Brookdale Community College, they each played key roles in developing visual arts programs, teaching courses in photography, painting, graphic communication, drawing and modern art history.

Top: Herb Edwards paints in Cape Cod. Above: Lillia Frantin paints in her garden. Top: Herb Edwards paints in Cape Cod. Above: Lillia Frantin paints in her garden. In 1990 Edwards left teaching to devote full energies to his art and moved to a small artist community in northern New Mexico, where the couple had a one-room adobe home in the mountains. There he painted the high desert landscape and exhibited his works. His wife, Lillia, left Brookdale a year later to join him there.

Today, that move has proven propitious — but how did they ever make it work?

“From our beginning years at Brookdale, we were committed to being ‘practicing artists and teachers,’ seeing that as essential to both parts of our life,” said Frantin. “I think it was a matter of philosophical choice to combine our desire

to see our art and life work together — as teachers, community members, parents and artists. It became a matter of balancing those, another kind of ‘art process,’ you might say,” she said.

“The problem of ‘survival’ as artists is something that never goes away. We were so very, very lucky in many ways. First off, we have had Brookdale as the center of so much of our life. The values of ‘early Brookdale,’ the people, the enormous energy, spirit and goodwill of faculty, students and staff, the passion of commitment were all certainly critical to the life we enjoyed, and still enjoy,” she said.

“Working 20 years in one place may sound repetitive or limiting; Brookdale never was. If we’d had the energy, or been able to split ourselves into several entities, we would have continued doing the balancing act of making art full time and teaching full time. But we couldn’t.

“Teaching had provided us with the wherewithal to have saved part of our income and have a small pension. Once our son’s schooling was done, we all three ‘graduated’ and took off for New Mexico, but not until after we’d gone over and over our needs and ‘survival plan.’

“Already established with a gallery in Santa Fe to exhibit in, and stimulated by the ‘light and color’ of a magnificent landscape to paint, and [having] a one-room adobe home in the mountains we’d built over the years, we followed what was, in fact, a 10-year plan,” she said.

"Chinese Vase & Poppies" by Lillia Frantin “Chinese Vase & Poppies” by Lillia Frantin “Advice to art students? Very hard to give, a terrible responsibility, really. We were lucky. And we lived pretty simply … It was challenging. And then, not only was Brookdale a special place, a little bit of a dream in many ways, but today any teaching job with longevity is rare to come by.

“If you can find a way to make a living and stay true

to what is inside your soul, what you are, art will have a chance to come from that. Really, making art and making an artful life is very much the same thing. I don’t mean an “arty life.” We always looked pretty darn conventional. I just mean an artful, true life can be made. The important thing is to stay with it and be happy in that path you’ve chosen.”