We The People - Chawky Frenn Paints it as He Sees It

Written by
Cole Tracy
Published on
March 1, 2014

Chawky Frenn is a great activist in many realms. He is dedicated to teaching new artists at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia; produces books on the fine arts of the underappreciated city of Boston. with which he has close ties; and is an active figurative painter whose work focuses on bold topics such as the human condi­tion and governmental issues.

"If realism is painting reality, then I am a realist/humanist painter. I am painting the reality I perceive in front of me," Frenn said. "I examine social and political issues that are, for me, at the heart of any humanist endeavor. The struggles between the ruling political and financial class, the elite and the ruled classes transcend civilizations. cultures, religions, regions and times."

His newest show, "We the People" (which was exhibited at Pine Manor College's Hess Gallery last fall). is on view this spring at Milton Academy's Nesto Gallery. It seems his work Is always a mixture or acknowledging the human condition and rendering these issues with coinciding beauty, produced not out of a desire to render but out of meditations upon our troubling existence.


Frenn was born in Zahle, Lebanon. but this work shows his deep care and understanding of the problem­atic nature of the society in which he resides. In his own words, the show is "reflecting on the opening words of the Constitution of the United States. The 'We the People' series uses the sacred document as a base for visual reflections on the history, princi­ples, visions, costs and challenges confronting our Supreme Law since its inception,(using) quotes from presidents, senators, justices and others alerting us about threats facing our democracy to accompany the images."

He said the exhibition was inspired by love. "I love the United States and am grateful for the magnificent things she has provided for me, opportunities that my own country could not offer. As I became conscious of the dangers threatening our republic, prejudiced manipula­tions of the law to serve the few and curtail the public well-being, I felt a compelling power ordering me to buy posters of the Constitution and paint on them."

Over the past decade, Frenn has produced many different pro ects that are realistic and eerie. In a broader sense, he sums up his purpose for creation: "Through my images I'm walking a path of reconciliation, searching for unity in my understanding of hope and fear, mind and heart, body and soul, male and female, justice and self-interest, power and fragility, truth and falsehood, sacred and profane."


Through painting, Frenn searches for truths, asks questions and explores his relationship to things outside of himself. The statement which appears variously throughout his website. "Art for Life's Sake," clarifies his intention as an artist to produce something that is in direct conversation with the world.

He has exhibited widely throughout the United States and Europe. Frenn received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Mass College of Art and Design and attended the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia for his graduate degree. Also. Frenn has taught at, among other institutions, Bridgewater State College, and Montserrat College of Art, so it's no surprise that he has such a fondness for Boston arts.

For his recent books, "100Boston Painters" and "100 Boston Artists," designed to promote the understanding and appreciation of Boston art, Frenn selected many figurative artists from the last half-century. He did not select with a specific criteria in mind, instead choosing some of the most well-known painters side-by-side with more obscure names. In doing so, he depicts a more holistic vision of the figurative painters that have been working diligently within Boston for many years.

"(At Mass Art) I was fortunate to study with inspiring artists whose passionate teaching awakened my spirit to the meaning and value of finding one's raison d'etre in one's work," Frenn said. "(They are) a testa­ment to the creativity and nobility of the human spirit manifested in the work of artists who channel their creative energies into works of art that may provide insights and bring a sparkle of joy, beauty and light to our heart and mind."