was born on January 16, 1959, in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, he drew monster pictures with pencils on his mother’s brown paper bags. His imagination was fueled by the cartoon programs of the time, especially “Astro Boy,” “Prince Planet,” and “Space Angel.”
Soon he had turned his bedroom into a science fiction exhibit, covering his walls with robots, sea monsters and space ships. Word spread throughout his neighborhood, and kids that he didn’t even know would visit his house and push open the door of his room to see his world.
“It was either ’76 or ’77, but put down ’77. I was eighteen years old. I was at home with my mother and sisters, and this woman came to our house from children’s welfare. We started talking, and I asked her if she wanted to see some of my pictures. They were in my room, the pictures that I drew of monsters and whatnot on brown paper bags. She said, ‘Did you ever think about doing this for a living?’ And I said, ‘Not really, ‘cause artists have to suffer.’ Something that I heard from people when I was growing up.
“The following week all these art supplies came to the house. There was also a calendar, a monster calendar with riddles. I used all these art supplies to make monsters and robots and everything, and I put them up on the walls. She came back to see the exhibit, but we had a fire and the exhibit was destroyed.
“Then we moved to another place and I made my own little exhibit on my walls. The welfare lady came and said oh and ah and I was really making serious work. She said that the man who had made the monster calendar was the only black man who had shows in Paris, and did I ever think about going to an art show? I wanted to go, but I didn’t have any money. She drifted off to other things, and I went back to working like I did in the old days.”
For the past twelve years, Joseph Franklin has been affiliated with the Souls in Motion studio, a non-profit community for the arts located in West Harlem. He has worked diligently and produced an impressive body of work.
Over the years, he has added women, men and animals to his earlier themes of robots and monsters. In his vast array of portraits of women, there is one to delight each of us. Recently one of his favorite motifs is “The Kiss,” work that began as hard edged magic marker drawings and has ended up as luminous soft focus pastels.
Those of us at Souls in Motion, “addicted” to the imaginative world of Joseph Franklin, look forward each week as our artist friend pulls flamboyant women, reticent robots, irrepressible animals and saddened monsters out of his bag and onto the round table for viewing. We are thrilled that we can share this special world with you.
Ward Nasse Gallery (January 1991) – group exhibition
Independent Arts Gallery (December 1992) – group exhibition
“Souls in Motion” Garden ([date]) – solo exhibition
Riverside Church Art Festival (June 1998) – solo exhibitio