Interview with F. N. Wright by Karina Klesko





Worlds of Mine

KARINA: When did you first become interested in the arts?

F. N. WRIGHT: I began "doodling" very young as I think most children did/do.

As far as painting goes I would guess about the age of 21. As to what influenced me?

That is hard to say. There are a lot of artists in my family, as my Mother was but am not certain the influence came from there.

My interest in photography began with my first grade teacher. I wonder how many first grade teachers taught their students anything about photography; the ability to take multiple images on one frame? The sky at night WAS my first exposure to this new world. If memory serves me right her name was Edna Windau.

KARINA: Could you explain what it was like to be an artist and grow up in the sixties ľan era of war, politics, passion, drugs and music. I know you are a poet as well, and both of the arts are interacted in your work.

F. N. WRIGHT:  Needless to say it was an exciting era for those of us who experienced it. I think the sad thing was the Vietnam War was always there: Basically from 1959-1975. And when it ended disco music came into vogue. A sad ending to a time when Rock musicians were discovering and exploring new concepts & inventing new variations on the world of music. Ironically beginning with the so called British Invasion on the American Rock scene. I say ironic because it was their discovery of American blues musicians and songs buried deep in American music history that led to this" new sound".

I was somewhat of an enigma in one way in that I sometimes joke among friends "That I am one of a handful that can say they survived both The Vietnam War and the "Summer Of Love" in San Francisco". The only way I survived the latter was by learning early and the hard way not to tell anyone I was a Vietnam Veteran. This was not easy to do because I was proud of having served in Vietnam and still am.

I mention music because I was primarily a prose writer even though I had discovered the "beat" poets in the 50's and was listening to more jazz and folk music than I had in the past. I hung out in North Beach and Venice Beach when I could but there was also a heavy "beat" influence in San Diego.

When I was not overseas I was stationed at The Coronado Naval Amphibious Base and the "beats" did not turn away or put down service members as the "hippies" would later do. My art at the time was also very bland in that I hadn't found the right muse yet; and here I return to music. I discovered Dylan, Ken Nordine and Gil Scott-Heron (both with and without The Last Poets) and others. I was hearing the cadence of the street and that led to my interest in poetry though I continued to write mostly prose I was writing more and more poetry and would publish poetry before anything else of mine was published.

Sometime in the early 60's I began combining poetry with art. "Psychedelic" art (mostly in the way of posters and handbills) caught my eye and a friend (after seeing what I was doing) turned me onto Kenneth Patchen. It was encouraging to find someone else was doing something similar to my attempts but doing it a helluva lot better than me; I eventually began corresponding with the Patchens and this would lead to a lifetime friendship with Miriam after Kenneth passed away not long after we were corresponding. That became all the encouragement I needed to continue and avidly seek out and study other painters. By the time I hit my own stride I found it was color and sometimes texture that intrigued me most.

I did some experimenting with drugs and found LSD, peyote and "magic schrooms" brightened colors but I never tried painting while "tripping". Of those three drugs LSD was my least favorite. I might add the first painting with poem I sold was of a soldier, sitting on a rock. His rifle leaning against the rock beside him and his elbows resting on his knees with his face buried in his face hiding the anguish he felt. His helmet had dropped to the ground at his feet. The poem was titled: "War".

As you can probably guess, it was a bittersweet period in my life but one I am glad I experienced and survived.

KARINA: At a very early age you learned to look at the world around you in a subjective way. Surrounded by realism and impressionism during the decades to come, you must have internalized your own view point, maybe creating your own inner world of color and fantasy.

KARINA: Can you tell me more about the inspiration behind your art?

F. N. WRIGHT: More about the inspiration behind my art? That's hard to pin down. I would have to think my reading was a major influence. I was reading before school and have been a prolific reader my entire life. Reading of course aroused my curiosity. I grew up in a small town in Southern Illinois (Mattoon to be exact). I was bored and felt I was no longer learning anything "new" in school. My parents never understood why they would first look at the public library when they received a call from school that I was not in attendance. They didn't understand I felt the books I was reading "taught" me more than high school text books. My escape was quitting school and enlisting in the Navy when I was seventeen. There were no wars going on and it was a chance for me "to see the world." So I not only traveled a lot across the different landscapes that America offers (which surely has to be an inspiration to any artist) I was able to see many foreign countries. I was also still heavily into photography and often carried two 35 MM cameras; one with color film and one with B & W. I became certified as a scuba diver and took many underwater pictures; and learned to develop and manipulate (transform the images) of B & W negatives during the film processing. I had started writing at age of ten (inspired by baseball of all things) and am sure the "worlds I created with words" was a large inspiration on my painting since I had to mentally visualize these "worlds of mine." I should add there were no "wars" taking place I knew of upon enlistment which would lead to my involvement in both "The Quemoy-Matsu Islands Crisis" and Vietnam.

KARINA: You are an Icon of this time, a survivor of turmoil in one of the most difficult times in our history.

F. N. WRIGHT: I am uncomfortable with being called an Icon. A "relic" might be more appropriate. (laughs). And I would like to thank you for being interested enough in what I do to interview me.



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