Carey Ann Francis spent most of her life in the ghettos of Texas cities like Dallas and Houston.
"They're horrible," she said, remembering the poverty, drug addiction and violence that surrounded her.
She left that life behind in 2009, when she moved to Ogden.
"We loaded up my Honda like the Beverly Hillbillies," she said. "I didn't take anything but my art with me."
Now enrolled at Weber State University, Francis is one of 28 students participating in the Spring 2012 BFA Thesis Exhibition.
The art exhibit opens with a reception from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today, April 13, in the Kimball Visual Arts Center on campus. The exhibit, running through April 29, is the culmination of the students' undergraduate art studies.
Included in the display are samples of painting, drawing, sculpture, video, installation and more. The diversity of the art runs from lace tents by Venessa Gromek to David Powell's animated video, made using hundreds of chalk drawings. Gromek's art was inspired by her work in the outdoor industry; Powell's was inspired by loss and longing,
The art Francis is showing was inspired by her life in Texas.
"I was born in Austin," she said. "I moved to Houston, then Dallas, and a lot of little bitty subcities. ... They're covered in ghetto areas."
Lost and found
Francis, a grandmother on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, works mostly in oil and acrylic -- but rarely paints on canvas. Her art is created on objects that other people have thrown away, such as old doors, a cast-iron sink and metal pipes. It's something she's done since she started taking art classes in Texas.
"I wasn't spending money properly, so when the teacher would give an assignment, I didn't have a nice, clean canvas," she said. "I've adapted it now, and applied it into my paintings and it's working well."
Francis has stories to go with all of her artwork.
"I try to reflect all the way back to childhood," she said, adding that she was born in 1960. "Some of it's during the civil rights movement, and Jim Crow laws."
One of the paintings is about how things had changed by the time Francis was 6 years old.
"They didn't want us to pick cotton," she said. "They wanted us to get an eduction. They said, 'You've gotta learn to read and write.' ... I didn't really understand at the time, but now I do."
Francis painted a story of abuse and violence on a cast-off door from the late 1800s.
"It's about a girl in the ghetto getting shot over $15, by a drug dealer," she said. "She comes and buys more drugs from him, and he accepts money from her."
But she still owed him $15.
"He goes and gets a gun," Francis said. "The dealer pays drug addicts to drag her to a Dumpster. ... Nobody knew she was behind the Dumpster, because it smells bad anyway."
The door has an image of the shooting on one side, and a woman's dead, swollen body painted on the other.
"She was covered with ants, and the ants were taking her flesh away, back to their little house," said Francis.
The painting "Negro Spiritual: Oh My Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord" focuses on the songs of slaves.
"We brought these spirituals with us, through our culture, because that was the way of prayer," Francis said. "It played a part in our upbringing, and our coming forth."
A mixed-media piece combining painting and newspaper collage, "And This Is My Friend," is about letting go of prejudice and hate.
"I had a best friend," Francis said. "Her name was Ginger, but she was a white girl."
Growing up with racism, Francis said, she was taught to feel hatred and hostility.
"I met her when I was 32 years old," she said of her friend. "Until I met her, I didn't know better from what I was taught. ... I found it's not about the color of your skin, but who you are as a person."
Francis says she learned that lesson late, but well.
"From that point on, I didn't have any hatred or hostility in my heart anymore," she said.
- WHAT: Spring 2012 BFA Thesis Exhibition
- WHEN: Opens with a reception 7-9 p.m. today, April 13; continues 11 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, noon-5 p.m. Saturdays, through April 29
- WHERE: Kimball Visual Arts Center, Weber State University, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden
- ADMISSION: Free; 801-626-7689