Mayfield Messenger Photo Noah Crum viewing of Helen LaFrance Artwork

Helen LaFrance Artwork

Date and Time: 05/09/2024 12:00 am

MAYFIELD — Artwork by Helen LaFrance — a Mayfield, Kentucky, native and acclaimed folk artist who was known for depicting southern life in Graves County — will be sold at an online auction on May 11th.

LaFrance died in 2020 at the age of 101. The auction of her artwork will feature pieces painted between 1960 and 1980. Some of the paintings depict landmarks in the city of Mayfield, such as the courthouse and the Presbyterian church, that were devastated by the Dec. 10, 2021, tornado.

James R. Cash Auction based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, will sell 30 of LaFrance’s original oil paintings. Jay Cash, auctioneer for the collection, considers it the most extensive gallery sale of LaFrance’s oil paintings.

In light of the auction, the Paducah Historical Preservation Society and community members are pooling resources to purchase some of the pieces to keep them in western Kentucky.

Crystal Fox has lived in Mayfield since she was 7 years old. She said she learned about LaFrance’s work while she was growing up and saw her paintings in museums. Fox considers LaFrance an influential figure because of her resilience and will to teach herself to paint from memory.

“Things like this inspire me,” Fox said. “You can be just a regular person with a passion and then find out your life’s calling.”

That’s why Fox is dedicated to rallying the community to ensure that some of LaFrance’s pieces stay in west Kentucky.

“It’s not often that someone of her status becomes so famous for art, and to be from western Kentucky, I mean, it’s wonderful,” Fox said. So, to be Black and African American and to have those pieces remain in western Kentucky would be great for our students.”

Fox said she is happy to see people interested in LaFrance’s work, but does not want the artwork to be too far from home.

“We don’t want those pieces to go across the world and get lost from this area because once they get lost into those collections, we won’t be able to possibly get them back,” Fox said. “So please bid on those pieces, and don’t just hide them in your home. I say if there’s an opportunity for us to display them into a museum in our area, put them on a display so we can have our students get out and see her work.”

James R. Cash Auction will have a public viewing of the pieces on May 9 at Independence Bank in Mayfield.

Originally published in Mayfield Messenger
Jeremiah Hatcher, The Sun
March 30th, 2024