When the Twin Towers fell in Manhattan, Francetta’s mother, who brought her up in Staten Island, decided to move to a safer place and chose the tranquility of West Palm Beach.
While she talks with me and tells me her story, her dog comes to claim her attention. “He comes from Puerto Rico,” Francetta says. “Two years ago, right after the devastating hurricane. I like to think that he has been rescued and has found a home here with us”. Francetta, who is 22 years old, is the only child and was raised by her mother and grandmother, not meeting her father until she was 17. At that point, he had just had a heart attack and came forward to get in touch with her. Now they talk with each other once in a while, but she finds it hard to forget all those years without his presence.
She is a student of fine arts and needs painting and printmaking like breathing: “Art has brought me peace and concentration and has taken me away from all the other stuff going on in my life. I don’t have different hobbies, just art, and I guess reading.”
In quarantine, she does schoolwork, walks her dog, reads, and plays video games. Her favorites are Tender Switch and Animal Crossing. I hear voices raised outside her room because of something that the dog has done; then they call Francetta, still infuriated. Francetta keeps posing for me, relaxed, while her eyes end up fixed on the ceiling, estranged. The pose changes too, but I have already drawn her head, and I don’t say a word while I concentrate on drawing her body in the new pose. She seems to be now in a world of her own, just like some of my painted characters from my series of daydreamers.
Her grandmother is 84 and has just come out of the hospital, and her mother, an English teacher, is having a rough time as her students, immigrant children from Latin America, are not showing up much to her online classes during quarantine. It’s a difficult moment for everybody, but Francetta’s art takes her away just where she wants to be.