Artwork is usually on the inside of the frame, but sometimes the spotlight turns to the picture frame itself. Artists all over the world have used the frame to create a new type of art — and sometimes, to let the frame speak for itself.
Graffiti Art in Picture Frames
Two Australian street artists, Skr3am and Jinks, joined forces in 2015 to create a series of large-scale murals around Melbourne. This isn’t your average graffiti, a term that often carries a negative connotation: these are meticulously painted pieces of art that are “framed” with both custom-made and found frames. The series started with “Twiggy,” seen above, which depicts the famous ‘60s model and uses over 200 frames. Since then, the pair have created framed murals of model Jean Shrimpton, musician Prince and physicist James Clerk Maxwell.
Framing the Garden of the Gods
A short-lived and controversial piece, the large blue picture frame at Garden of the Gods, a park in Colorado Springs, was the brainchild of Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. At its core, the frame was meant as a fun way to encourage more tourists to visit the picturesque location. Instead, however, it angered the locals for “disturbing” the peaceful view. Whether it was an eyesore or excellent idea, the frame was removed — but it certainly started a conversation.
Picture Frames: Part of the Art
For some artists, the artwork and the frame are one and the same. The idea of incorporating a picture frame into a piece of artwork is not a new idea: Georges Seurat’s 1886 painting “Evening, Honfleur” features a frame painted in his distinct pointillism technique, which serves to include the frame in the scene.
This practice hasn’t been lost, as contemporary artists such as Vancouver artist ArtofJPH have continued painting frames as an extension of the artwork within. Several of the artist’s pieces, including “Blue Fairy” (left) and a landscape depicting the Vancouver seawall, feature richly painted picture frames.
Lorraine O’Grady’s “Art Is…”
In 1983, artist Lorraine O’Grady made a statement at the African-American Day Parade in Harlem, New York, with a performance piece that heavily featured picture frames. A large float showcased a 9 x 15-foot antique-style gold frame, “framing everything it passed as art,” according to the artist’s website, as actors and dancers atop the float passed empty frames to the crowd so they could frame themselves — as a result, they became the art. Performance art is fleeting, but the photographs have lived on to commemorate the event.
An Advertisement as Art
Feeling inspired at the @HomeGoods #GoFinding installation at the Long Center - each picture frame gives a different perspective on Austin! What inspires you? To me, exploration sparks inspiration. Whether it’s in Austin and exploring a new restaurant, or traveling to a new city and experiencing a new adventure. Shopping at @HomeGoods is like an adventure too – I always find a different piece that sparks my creativity and it’s affordable. #ad
Image source: A Taste of Koko on Instagram
Not every piece of artwork is meant to promote conversation — sometimes, it’s just to make a sale. Made for retailer HomeGoods by McCann New York, the art installation/ad campaign featured home décor such as mirrors, lamps and, of course, picture frames arranged in three locations: New York City, Austin, and the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Each installation was on display for the entire month of May 2018, and resulted in dozens of social media posts that took advantage of the larger-than-life art (and served to promote the retailer even more!).
Make Your Own Amazing Picture Frame Art
Instead of tossing out your old frames once you’ve purchased a custom picture frame, use it in an art project. Artists can reproduce the effect that both Seurat and ArtofJPH have used by painting a wood frame to complement the artwork within; for a larger project, you can paint a mural in your own home and frame it just like Skr3am and Jinks. Alternatively, use the frames as a prop for a photo session. We’ve done it ourselves: in the photograph to the right, we’ve used one of our ornate wood frames to create a beautiful portrait.
You can make a beautiful piece of artwork with anything — even the frames meant to display it!