Carolyn Schlam

Taos, New Mexico
Frances at 103
Frances at 103
Oil on canvas, 2011
Collection of the artist


Frances Dunham Catlett (née Taylor) was born in 1908 in Hartford, Connecticut, daughter of a co-founder of the Union Baptist Church, youngest of ten children, painter, poet, dancer, social worker, wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother—a true renaissance woman.

My goal was to communicate the character of this remarkable woman and to celebrate the sweep of her extraordinary life. I was mindful that Frances’s eyes have taken in more than a century of changes for women, for African Americans, and for Americans facing modernity. The portrait required that I pierce the veil of conventional notions of beauty to arrive at something more significant: a well-lived life personified. Ultimately, a deeper and more resonant beauty was revealed in the softer light of time.

In this portrait Frances stands proudly, without affectation. She is an authentic and evolved self and a human being whose gaze we wish to meet. 

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