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Artist Profile: Helen LaFrance

Helen LaFrance Orr (b. Graves County, KY, 1919; d. Mayfield, KY, 2020) was a self-taught painter who drew from her own memories to depict scenes of rural life and Black community. A recipient of Kentucky’s Folk Art Heritage award in 2011, LaFrance received recognition later in life and has work in the collections of the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art. Of her own work, LaFrance told an interviewer in 2011, “If I do something somebody likes, well, I’m satisfied because somebody liked what I did, but I don’t think it’s important.”


An aged color photograph of an older woman with a medium dark skin tone who is wearing a long, belted white dress and is leaning an arm and elbow against a bar. Her eyes are closed, looking to the side, and is smiling.
Helen LaFrance

A painting of a funeral procession walking towards a very misty and atmospheric cemetery. The several dozen figures shown are rendered with very small marks, as if seen by a bird overhead. The ground and trees are green, and the sky, which takes up half of the scene, is a mottled dark turquoise and gray.
Going Home (1995)

Painting of a rural American house with a long wide porch and green metal sheet roofing surrounded by green trees and a green lawn. Ten or so figures with dark skin tones, are seen from far away gathering outside, with a group of 3 appearing to have just arrived. The colors are bright and the style is gentle and inviting.
Sunday Supper (1997)
RUCKUS, 2018-2023
Louisville, KY