“The Golden Hour, Part 3” by Francis Di Fronzo is a 30” x 60” watercolor, gouache and oil painting featuring the artist’s familiar empty boxcars, which balance quietly on a stark horizon line of seemingly endless train tracks. Their worn, skeletal bodies have a lonely presence, one that evokes nostalgic romance or even a touch of sadness. Beyond the painting’s shadowy foreground and the rusty boxcar exteriors is a contrasting cotton candy sunset, signifying the end of a long day’s journey for the tired train cars. Pink wispy clouds stretch across a softly lit teal sky in a way that is especially familiar to those who have experienced a Midwest or southwest sunset. “It’s a reflective moment,” says Di Fronzo of his depiction of the day’s last light. The setting sun is also a reminder of something coming to an end, whether a single day or a full lifetime. “I can almost hear the creaking of those cars,” he says of his aged subjects. “But there’s a lot of beauty in the moment; instead of worrying about the end, there is enjoyment and peace in watching the sun set.”
Francis Di Fronzo has lived a bi-coastal life from childhood to adulthood. The artist was born in California but grew up in Pennsylvania and has since hopped back and forth between the two. He received his BFA from California State University, attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for his MFA, and currently lives in San Pedro, California. Di Fronzo identifies both states as home, but his true fascination lies in the barren landscape that connects them. “My moving around from coast to coast has endeared me to what’s in between,” says Di Fronzo. “I have a distant but affectionate relationship with the middle of the country – and I think it has a lot to do with my view of the world.”
This affection led to Di Fronzo’s train car motif, which brings up complex emotions and varied interpretations. Transient adventure, emotional connection and the passage of time are among the many meanings that Di Fronzo conveys through his work. “I’m drawn to boxcars because they express something universal about life,” he says. “There is a sense of exploration and transience; people used to hop in boxcars and travel across the country and there’s romance in that. But there’s also a sense of connection; if you want to get somewhere, just follow the train tracks.”
Di Fronzo is also fascinated by the architecture of the trains themselves. The boxcar structures are clearly worn down and decaying, yet their massive steel bodies maintain a powerful presence. “They’re almost like living things that move across the land,” says Di Fronzo. “It’s amazing how fragile some of them are, much like an old person. Like one touch could break a bone.”
Above all, Di Fronzo’s paintings engage the viewer with an intriguing sense of mystery. Where are these landscapes? Do they exist in the past, present or future? What have these train cars seen and where are they headed? “I like the idea of my paintings having a life and raising questions,” says the artist. “I hope that when collectors buy and live with my paintings that they always see something new in them, and the sense of mystery is an ongoing experience.”
Click here to browse Francis Di Fronzo’s available paintings and mark your calendars for his solo show in May 2019.