Wednesday, January 25, 2023


(Helen at her 100th birthday party where friends, family and patrons came to celebrate)

DO NOT MISS this terrific show at The Speed Museum in Louisville---Kentucky Women:Helen LaFrance---running through April 30, 2023. The museum has mounted a range of her work---wood carvings, religious paintings and memory paintings---so you can see for yourself why she has been called The Black Grandma Moses. Helen LaFrance (November 2, 1919-November 22, 2020) was a self-taught Black American artist born in Western Kentucky who is best known for her captures of the disappearing lifestyle of the rural South. 

LaFrance grew up on her family's farm under Jim Crow, the laws that demanded segregation and disadvantaged social, economic and educational conditions for African Americans in this country from 1876 to 1965. Her parents encouraged her artistry and they taught her at home when she had to work on the farm and couldn't go to the Black school. When her mother died, she left home to work different jobs, making enough money to buy art supplies. In 1986 she was able to paint full time. Helen was unusual in that she owned property, as did her father and grandfather, in a time when Black women in the South did not have that opportunity.

Helen passed away peacefully in her sleep at 101 years of age. She witnessed almost a century of life in the South, and it was that blend of personal experiences and artistic expression that made Helen LaFrance a unique and an important artist.