The Border is loosely based on an ink sketch I made of a field in Laguna Seca, California back in July, 1997. The field was bordered by a brittle, rusted barbed wire fence and a broad steel gate which had been left wide open. I spent a good part of the day there, sitting in the grass under the sun with the bugs, making this sketch with a fine felt-tipped pen. The drawing was actually a series or sequence of drawings depicting the entire scene - a kind of panoramic view - with the hills and California live oak in the distance and this dead flat field with the dirt road running down the middle of it.


Laguna Seca (01), felt-tipped pen on paper, 10 x 17", July, 1998.


Laguna Seca (02), felt tipped pen on paper, 14 x 17 in. (36 x 43 cm.), July, 1998.

When I returned to Philadelphia later that month, I put the sketchbook away and didn't look at it for nearly a year. When I finally went back to those drawings, I saw this sketch of a field with a path running through it and I was floored. It immediately took me back to that field in Laguna Seca and that afternoon I spent sitting under the sun with the bugs. I took out a large sheet of paper and started a formal drawing. I took out the oak, a few of the hills and everything else that was unessential. There was something very pure and evocative about that composition.


Laguna Seca, graphite on paper, 18 x 24 in. (46 x 61 cm.), July, 1999.

Then, in July of 2001, the idea sprang up once again. At that time, I felt as if I'd reached the end of painting and that I simply didn't want to do it anymore. All I needed was a final project to serve as a kind of bookend for my career as an artist. I think the title came to me at that time as well. The Border - a line in the sand to distinguish between one place and another... the past from the future.
The first days of painting were so deliberate. I was painting all the bits of grass along the path edge with the tiniest brush I could find. Everything had to be drop-dead perfect because this was going to be the last painting. After a week of laboring this way I finally remembered why I hated painting so much. I got the big brushes out, along with some sandpaper, and started hacking away at the composition. The path, which had originally been laid out at the center of the painting, migrated to the left edge and then to the far right until it very nearly fell out off the panel entirely. I did everything I could to it. I very nearly put a hammer through the panel a few times out of frustration. Finally, I set it aside with the face of the painting to the wall, and started a new painting. I don't recall what I started working on but I suppose I'd realized I wasn't done painting.


detail of The Border, part I

Then, in March of the following year, I took the painting from the corner of my studio, dusted it off and finished it. I painted in all the grass, carved away at the path with sandpaper and filled in the sky. It took just four or five days to wrap it up. I kept the painting for another month then dropped it off at the gallery. A few weeks later it was sold and I haven't seen the damned thing since.
- Francis Gregory Di Fronzo, 2004


The Border, part 1, oil on panel, 27 x 71 in. (70 x 189 cm.) July, 2001 - April 2002.

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Francis Gregory Di Fronzo.
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