Degrees of Frank
About Frank Green @ Arts Collinwood
For two decades Frank Green was among Cleveland’s most visible artists and writers. A
critic and essayist for the Cleveland Free Times and other regional publications, and then
for several seasons contributing reviewer to Art in America, Green was diagnosed HIV
positive in the 1980’s. A passionate advocate of alternative and experimental art forms,
he also used his considerable gifts as a performance artist to raise public awareness of
the realities of the international AIDS crisis. Green’s one man show The Scarlet Letters,
performed at Cleveland Public Theater, Franklin Furnace (Brooklyn NY) and elsewhere
around the country, was a tightly composed indictment of the denial and hypocrisy
surrounding AIDS in America.
In his battered punk motorcycle jacket, Green was a constant, energetic presence at
Cleveland galleries and performances as he battled to keep his health. Finally in 2003 his
luck and his health hit a wall. He became gravely ill and began treatment. Good news and
bad news followed. The physical illness was arrested, but Green suffered severe short-
term memory loss and disorientation. Around that time he was admitted to a nursing home
on the west side of Cleveland, where he remains.
Green attended the opening of the show in his honor at Arts Collinwood last month.
Perhaps there were lacunae (who could claim not to have a few holes in his head?), but
Frank seemed surprisingly well as he made conversation with old friends, taking in the art
and the scene with a practiced eye.
Curated by noted Tremont area gallerist Jean Brandt, the exhibit Degrees of Frank
included prints, drawings, sculpture, photographs, and mini-installations by a dozen
distinguished artists. In one of the former storefront’s windows Bruce Edward’s A Brief
History of Me hung from the ceiling, made up of layers of shirts and T-shirts on a hanger
in a succinct metaphor evoking change, repetition, and repression. Nancy Prudic’s Fear is
a mirror painted black, with the question, “What are you afraid of” scratched in the middle.
Visitors have added words and phrases like “the known” and “election voting machines.”
Michael Loderstedt’s long, tall digital print Frank (Thinking) shows an indistinct lozenge-
shaped body, with an area of stormy infra-red activity from a weather map at the top.
Nearby, Judith Brandon’s three watercolors depicted human faces emerging from brown,
stain-like areas in works titled Lesion of Hypocrisy, Lesion of Denial, Lesion of
Compassion. At the rear of the gallery film maker Robert Banks’ Paper Shadows was
activated by viewers, who cranked two handles attached to a machine that wound and
played magnetic audio tapes of “found” sounds. Similarly photographer Jerry Mann’s The
Soul of… looped film up and over a framework of pipes, finally projecting indistinct images
on a semi-transparent cloth square. Three-dimensional works by Sally Hudak, Dennis
Maxfield, John Ranally, and Elizzabeth Schiros rounded out a show of notable depth and
vitality. A DVD of Andy Timithy interviewing Green at the Literary Café in 1998 stitched the
past to the present with almost brutal abruptness.
Large themes of memory and loss, contrasting the wealth of human experience with
severely limited expressive means and the relative privation of recollection, faded in and
out of focus at Degrees of Frank. The centerpiece was a video installation by Beth Wolfe
titled Flying Upsidedown Ascending Party Chair. An audio tape of Wolfe and others
reading Green’s original 1989 script, Letters From Jane for Five Voices With Screamers
and Chain was the sound component of this tribute, echoing in a short hallway at the
head of the gallery’s basement stairs. The script, which in the context of this show seemed
all too prescient, consists of passages from author Jane Bowles’ correspondence as she
slowly became incapable of communication following a stroke, obsessively crossing out
almost all of what she had written. Peering through a narrow aperture above the stairs,
visitors saw an upside-down chair projected from a live feed. A balloon rested
enigmatically on its seat and filmy, angelic wings sprouted from its barrel back as it slowly
twirled in mid-air. There were only questions at Degrees of Frank, and haunting glimpses
of a jerry-rigged divinity, revolving into darkness.
[Angle Magazine Issue 30]