Carolyn Schlam
A portrait of an old woman wearing a white scarf with red flowers.

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Frances at 103
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.