This little gift book, explains 95-year-old artist Frederick Franck, came about unexpectedly. His son Lukas was looking under his workbench and discovered several cardboard boxes filled with small clay faces. Franck had made most of them spontaneously, using just his thumb and forefinger. They have a striking raw beauty yet convey a wide range of emotions. Photographer Luz Piedad was also fascinated and took more than 100 black-and-white photographs of them. Soon a book was on its way.
Marvin Barrett, senior editor of Parabola, writes in the foreword that these small sculptures "convey eloquently in the simplest vocabulary what people think and feel and betray with eyes, mouth, cheeks, temples and chin." The faces, Franck writes, are someone he met on a plane, in the grocery store, or at a traffic light. But they are more than portraits; they are icons. The artist explains, "I felt them to be directly related to my lifelong intense preoccupation with the meaning of being born human, in other words: Who am I? Who are you?"
Paging through the book, you are bound to recognize a feature or expression familiar on someone you know — the slightly downturned mouth, an upturned nose, hollow eyes. "This is obviously not a beauty contest," Franck quips in one of the captions. In another, he admits: "Molding one of these faces I sometimes feel I am molding a karma, not limited to this particular face, but shared as if from the beginningless beginning."
There are also faces in repose that encourage a state of meditative peacefulness in the viewer. The many that look like a Buddha reveal the Buddha-nature in us all. Franck is a universal man, and so when he looks at the human face, he sees more than an individual's features. He also catches a glimpse of all the emotions that bond us with other human beings. That is why he writes: "The spiritual life is not an addition to but the core of any life meriting to be regarded as human." This gift book bequeaths to us a multi-splendored appreciation for what we have in common.