miércoles, 1 de abril de 2015


M. S. Franco, The Artist and his Angels
By Hugh F. Wynn

In today’s rapidly changing world, Manuel Socorro Franco uses his brushes and the skillful artistry in his fingertips to splash canvasses with vibrant color in a variety of images - Wildlife, Westerns, Native American, and Portraiture as well as Still Life and breathtaking Southwestern scenes. His art smacks of Realism – practical and pragmatic – simple and uncomplicated – a thoughtful blend of psyche and motor skills. When viewing Franco’s art, note the eyes of his central characters – how they watch the beholder from all angles of the room. How the hair and feathers of his wild creatures appear soft to the touch – prime indicators of an accomplished craftsman.  Franco works with an equally diverse
assortment of mediums: oil, watercolor, pencil, pastel and bronze. His favorite medium: watercolor. Why? “It lends itself to the fine detail that I put into my work,” he explains.

Don Tello Franco

Manuel inherited a strong work ethic from his father, Don Tello, a good husband and an honest, hardworking man. Soledad, his mother, a woman who, at the expense of creature comforts, dedicated her life to exposing her children to the best available educational opportunities; a dedication that resulted in Manuel earning a college degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Chihuahua.

Until Franco, his mother, and two siblings moved to Chihuahua, the family lived near a tiny oasis village, Coyame, in the Chihuahuan desert. Their stone home, built by Manuel’s parents and older brother, Juan, had no modern conveniences. “It was pure country living,” Franco fondly remembers. "We were lucky to live in that rural paradise. You don’t miss the luxuries that you don’t have.” 

Each spring, Manuel’s father plowed the fields with a team of mules. He and the kids took care of the cattle along with goats, chickens and other animals. They planted corn, beans, pumpkins, milo, hay, and occasionally, cotton. In season, Don Tello hunted wild game in the rugged terrain surrounding Coyame to help feed the family. “The kids would anxiously await his return from these trips with a load of jerky,” Franco recalled. “To this day, I remember the smell of the leather chaps, saddle and the sweat of his horse and mules…memories to this day that aid me in my painting. Don Tello couldn’t afford a vehicle and only drove a truck once.  It didn’t matter. There were no local gas stations, and he preferred riding horses. A friend, Don Manuel Herrera, owned the only car in town, and on the night of February 19, 1946, Manuel took his first breath in the backseat of Herrera’s car in the hills overlooking Coyame – en route to a hospital in Chihuahua.  Manuel’s parents named him after Herrera who also became his godfather. 

Manuel attributes his diverse artistic interests to the experiences he had living on the small farm near Coyame; his early years spent on the mean streets of a big city, struggling to help the family earn a living; his matriculation at the University of Chihuahua; the years spent traveling throughout Mexico and across the Great Southwest; and to his Indian/Mexican heritage – a paternal great-grandmother was a full-blood Chiricahua  Apache. Each of these venues added its own charm to Franco’s  vibrant memory bank that allows him to create a broad set of unforgettable images.

Despite working as a mining engineer for several years in Mexico, Manuel couldn’t shake his dream of earning a living as an artist. In 1978, in pursuit of that goal, he slipped across the Rio Grande as an undocumented immigrant and settled in the Dumas area of the Texas Panhandle. He met his future wife, Risa, at a Denver art show in 1991. They later married and have called Dumas their home since 1995. Franco, surrounded by a few of “his angels”, became a U. S. citizen in 2000.

Over the years, Franco has achieved international recognition as a top tier artist, receiving numerous awards and honors. The one he considers most consequential came when the University of Chihuahua, his alma mater, celebrated his many achievements with a One Man Show at the Quinta Gameros Museum in 2007. At the same time, his hometown, Coyame, named him “their favorite son”. 

In 2011, the organizing committee of the IX International Conference of Mining   offered Franco a delightful task: to sculpt a Tribute to the Iron Men, the Miners and to paint an image of the resultant bronze, which he titled The Miner, an acrylic on canvas. Franco and his wife, Risa, were then invited to unveil The Miner painting at the 2012 conference gathering in Chihuahua during which the Governor of the State of Chihuahua, Cesar Duarte, and the Mexican Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists honored him.

Franco paintings add exquisite color to the halls of the University of Chihuahua. His famous Buffalo Springs Division-XIT Ranchacrylic hangs in Dalhart’s  XIT Museum. It also decorates the cover of the beautifully Franco-art-illustrated biography, “M. S. Franco,The Artist and his Angels”. More than two dozen Franco sketches adorn St. Pius X High School, an important sponsor of the Legacy Art Albuquerque show. Collaborations with other well-known artists embellish grateful recipient institutions like El Paso Community College. His magnificent hometown Dumas Art Center proudly displays a permanent collection, which includes many Franco paintings. And numerous Artist of the Month/Show and other honorifics, including the Dalhart Museum’s 75th Anniversary of the XIT Rodeo & Reunion complete a long list of acknowledgments. The influential Art of the West Magazine and the peerless television program, Texas Country Reporter have featured Franco in their popular venues.

"Buffalo Springs Division of the XIT Ranch" unvailed at the XIT Museum
in Dalhart, TX to celebrate the 75th /anniversary of the XIT Rodeo &
Reunion in 2011

Franco gained broad recognition for his originality and resourcefulness after being selected to paint Still Life and Southwest images for Front Line Graphic, a San Diego Publishing Company who distributed reproductions of his paintings throughout the world.

He has appeared on numerous occasions at the Western Art Association’s (WAA) National Western Art Show and Auction in Ellensburg, Washington, who honored Franco by selecting him to paint the 21st annual show’s poster titled “The Artistry of Many Hands”. During his appearances there, Franco paintings were routinely selected for sale in the main auction.
The University of New Mexico School of Medicine chose Franco, a gifted portrait artist, to sketch the biannual covers of the school’s UNMed magazine¹. For his inaugural cover, Franco sketched a delightful image of Dr. Leonard Michael Napolitano, founder and dean of the UNM School of Medicine (father of former Arizona governor and current President of the University of California System, Janet Napolitano).


Dozens of Franco’s inimitable sketches of Legacy Art Albuquerque benefit entertainers, politicians, benefactors, philanthropists, humanitarians, and artists hang on the Wall of Fame at St. Pius School in Rio Rancho/Albuquerque. 
Franco participates in various efforts of friend and fellow philanthropist, Amado Peña, to include the El Paso Community College and the Legacy Art Albuquerque Show¹ sponsored by the St Pius High School and the Amado & J. B. Peña “Art has Heart’ Foundations. Franco was Legacy XIII’s featured artist in 2013. In 2009, eighteen of the country’s finest artists collaboratively painted a mural that sold for $50,000 to benefit the Legacy Art Albuquerque event. Franco’s most recent honorific was his selection by Kerrville’s prestigious Museum of Western Art as their March Artist of the Month.
Franco’s beautiful daughter, Brenda, was born with epilepsy. His sense of duty and Brenda’s neurological condition prompted his involvement for over two decades in an annual gala for the Epilepsy Foundation in Amarillo. Because of his involvement, many other artists participated in the event over the years. And thanks to his participation, the foundation assisted his daughter and many others with this particular neurological disorder.

In 2012, Franco joined forces with SaveWaterTexas, a water conservation group that conducts assemblies in and disseminates water conservation material s to schools across Texas. He contributed full production rights to certain of his art, “The Last Waterhole”, a haunting watercolor he donated for statewide auction to raise money for the water conservation effort.

In keeping with his SaveWaterTexas involvement, Franco’s motto is: “Take care of the ground you walk on, the water you drink, and the air you breathe” – strongly held beliefs that he subtly weaves into the very fabric of many of his artistic endeavors.

Manuel Socorro Franco, the artist and the man, can be summed up in a few short, self-effacing sentences – words of his own taken from a brief excerpt in the book: Prairie, the Land and Its People, by Carol Schmidt and Mil Penner.

“I’m not the best artist. I have gone further than some.
The friends around me – that’s ninety percent of my success.”

His friends, and yes, his angels.