Frances Fortner at Cups in Fondren. Image: Tom Fortner

Frances Fortner was just 18, one day before graduating high school when she lost her life in an automobile accident.

The young Fondrenite’s life was cut short. But so was her promising career in journalism, in dance and in the arts, the latter of which is explored in the opening of “Higher Truth” on Thursday at Cups.

Fortner’s mother, Laurilyn Fortner, shared insight on her daughter and her daughter’s work with Find It In Fondren.

I’m certain you could go on and on about this, but who was Frances Anne? Who was she to you, to her father, her friends and her community?
She was everything to us, the light of our lives. With her friends, she was considered a cool girl, very interested in inclusion, witty, kind and sassy. She was a dancer, a writer, a filmmaker and an artist. She was a creative soul. She was a good student, but she had to work hard for the grades she earned. Frances was persistent and did not like to compromise. She had integrity and was more self-actualized at 18 than most people. She had really just come into her own and was on the launch pad so to speak. Some of this has become more clear to us in the last two months. A community shapes a person and Frances was a Fondrenite and a Jacksonian.

Why an art show – why at Cups, why now?
She worked on her homework, her writing, her art and herself at Cups. She kept a bullet journal and was more productive away from the distractions of home. She had signed up to show her work at Cups herself: I just moved things along, because we want to share her work with the community. Also, we wanted to let her classmates and friends have time to come together in celebration before they all go their separate ways in the world. And it is opening during Fondren After 5, which always a good time.

What will we see in this show?
It is good work – I am biased of course (as an artist) – but I stayed out of her way. She had good teachers at Jackson Academy.

Her thesis, for the advanced placement work, explored teen depression and anxiety. She primarily did color pencil portraits of her friends. The black lines represent tension and adversity, the dark and light in life. The idea that the face we show the world is not always the face we feel inside.

Frances had normal teenage struggles; in today’s world, these can be more problematic than they should be, what with current politics, mass shootings, social media, and decisions about college and life choices in general. Her other pieces showcase more fanciful illustration and graphic design.

You’ve titled the show “Higher Truth: The Art of Frances Fortner”: what is that higher truth Frances was hoping we could all see?
“Higher Truth” refers to a necklace she wore that she made from cheap plastic beads. I never asked her about it. She used the phrase jokingly sometimes. But it also refers to peace and real happiness and coming to terms with your true self. Living your truth. That’s what she wanted for herself, and everyone else, too. She was very interested in the mysteries of the universe, all the science in nature that is beautiful and never completely understood. She studied the Enneagram, and was sharing this with her peers.

Prints and other items will be available for sale at the show, which opens 10 – 11 a.m. and 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. on August 2. All proceeds will go to fund arts and arts education in Fondren through the Fondren Renaissance Foundation.

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