FRANCES HYNES

The Wanderers, 1994 - 2001
September 14 - December 11, 2021


Image: Frances Hynes, The Leaving, 1995, oil on linen, 46 x 44", Collection of Ireland's Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT.


The Yeh Art Gallery at St. John’s University is pleased to announce The Wanderers, 1994 - 2001, a solo exhibition of paintings by Queens artist Frances Hynes (b. 1945). An alumna of St. John’s, Hynes has been exhibiting her work for almost fifty years. This exhibition of more than 20 paintings focuses on the artist’s “Irish Paintings,” a series of works Hynes made in the 1990s after several trips to the Emerald Isle.

Raised in the neighborhood of Bayside, Hynes lives and works in her family home, a Cape Cod, just a few minutes down the road from fellow Queens artist Joseph Cornell. Since graduating from St. John’s University in 1966, Hynes has remained consistently involved with New York’s painting scene, including a 1980 solo exhibition at The Institute for Contemporary Art, P.S. 1 (now MoMA PS1), and solo exhibitions with Poindexter Gallery, Terry Dintenfass Gallery,  June Kelly Gallery, and Moe’s Meat Market. A friend and peer of renowned artists like Lois Dodd, Deborah Remington, Susan Weil, Will Barnet, and Robert Kobayashi, Hynes has produced several decades of paintings about the human condition, the changing cityscape, and the natural world.

Hynes’s journey to Ireland was a homecoming, and the pastoral landscape of her family’s ancestral country significantly impacted her trajectory. Thereafter, a new lexicon of signs and symbols entered her paintings: references to Celtic life, from pre-Christian traditions to modern folktales. This moment in Hynes’s practice resulted in career-defining works that synthesize abstract, fleeting landscapes, dissolving in color, with ambiguous figures and creatures, often annotated with lyrical lines of text. The artist’s first solo exhibition in a New York museum in over 40 years, these works tell a poetic story through art about migration, wandering, and memory.

In 1995, Hynes accepted a position as a Visiting Professor at Burren College of Art, in Co. Clare, Ireland. For months, Hynes became immersed in the rolling hills of farmland, local curing wells (teeming with waters that purportedly healed the ails of believers), and the poetry of Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats. For Hynes, this period of wandering and discovery manifested in such paintings like The Wanderers (1996)which depicts humanoids, horses, and deer migrating through wintry woods. The Leaving, on loan from Quinnipiac University’s Great Hunger Museum, evokes the history of Irish migration as a result of the 19th century’s Potato FamineOther paintings like Ochre Skellig take cues from Ireland’s archaeological sites like the Skellig Islands’ medieval monasteries, abandoned ruins that rest atop craggy lands, alone in the Atlantic.

Overall, the exhibition is a retrospective glimpse of a crucial period in Hynes’s career, a journey about what makes us human and longing for homeland. 

Special thanks to: an anonymous donor; St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Moss Galleries, Falmouth and Portland, Maine; Phyllis Stigliano Art Projects; Susan Damiani and The McCallen Society; an anonymous donor; Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT; and the Rev. Al Shands.


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