SALLY FRENCH DOUBLE DOG DARES ARTISTS TO EXPLORE THEIR CREATIVITY.
In a mountainside studio overlooking Kaua‘i’s alluring south shore, a handsome French bulldog named Sunny strikes a pose. This canine is the muse of artist Sally French, whose monotypes portray him in a variety of ways: In one, he exhibits the perfect dog shaming pose, petrified perhaps as a result of some recent bad behavior, while another shows him stoic, the perfect canine specimen. The portraits are simplistic in form, a seeming departure from the works French has become known for—sexy kitties posed as strippers, a selfportrait of sorts on “candy ass pink,” a tattooed kitty punching the living daylights out of a nameless masculine form that personifies roadblocks for the artist. Her work deals in visual narratives, as she calls them, depicting her personal life and the environment around her. And what about Sunny? “Look at him,” she says of her sweet-demeanored dog. “I can’t help but use that face.”
French’s space, which she named Double Dog Studio, is filled with almost every artistic tool imaginable. A wooden cabinet filled with drawers holds supplies like fishing line, wood floor pieces, alligator clips, charcoal, glass weights, S-hooks, and of course, dog clippers. It all elicits an urge to grab a brush and start painting. French believes that she has the perfect recipe for artistic ingenuity, which is why she offers artist-in-residence retreats at her Kalaheo studio. “There is a surge of energy that comes with a new experience, a change of environment, and a defined amount of time to react creatively to it,” French says. “Artists tend to push through their walls of resistance and see solutions not available in their own working spaces.”
The California native knows how necessary it is for artists to collaborate with other creatives, get outside their comfort zones, and push their limits—in fact, she “double dog dares” them to do so. At her studio, French provides workshops and weekend intensives for visiting artists, which can include accommodations in her beautiful home located just above the studio. The intensives are composed of four days of studio work and consist of groups of up to five. The artists work only in printmaking, with a focus on monotypes, which involves applying paint to a plexiglass plate and running it through a press to create a reverse image.
Prior to opening her studio to other artists two years ago, French used it privately for more than three decades after moving to Hawai‘i from San Francisco, where she taught figure drawing while majoring in illustration at the San Francisco Academy of Art. While there, she was part of an art collective that saved a turn-of-the-century hotel called the Goodman Building from demolition, using their rent money to paint the façade and to create a public art space. (Today, the building is still designated as an artist live-work space.) French also painted murals, including one at rock group Jefferson Airplane’s mansion on Fulton Street. “They paid my rent at the time, and I had all my art supplies on their tab,” she recalls of the collaboration. “That’s all I was paid, but it was fine with me since I could listen to them practice.”
French has exhibited her art in nearly 40 solo shows at various locations, including Heidi Cho Gallery in New York City, the Contemporary Center for the Arts in New Orleans, and The Contemporary Museum on O‘ahu, now known as Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House. Fumiko, Keeper of the Meek, a digital print from Wunderlust: The Keepers’ Tale—a series of photographs that French eventually turned into a book—is currently on display at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum. Based on French’s daughter, Aimee, Fumiko, one of eight keepers living in the land of Wunderlust, “watches over the young, guards the weak, sets the calendar, yodels, and yells all news throughout the land.” It’s a visual narrative not unlike the one unfolding at Double Dog Dare Studios. “When students are ready for what I can offer them, it’s really quite magical what happens,” French says. “I have found that artists always rise to the opportunity and create some of their best work in this studio, and this, in turn, stimulates me to create my best work.”
To see Sally French’s work on Kaua‘i, visit galerie 103, located at The Shops at Kukui‘ula. To learn more about becoming a visiting artist at the Double Dog Dare Studio, visit doubledogdarestudio.com.
Sally French double dog dares artists to explore their creativity.
Sally French understands the necessity for artists to collaborate with other creatives, get outside their comfort zones, and push their limits, which she invites them to do at her Kaua‘i studio.
Sunny, French’s French bulldog, is often the muse for the artist’s work. “Look at him, I can’t help but use that face,” she says.