Meet Memphis - Frank Lilly
A man of many job titles, he’s always been an artist. As a young artist in Clarksdale Mississippi, Frank Lilly was thrilled to be accepted at Memphis College of Art. When he had to leave behind his studies there in the late 60’s he had two choices - volunteer or get drafted. So he volunteered for the Army. One of his assignments put him at West Point, which gave this soldier-artist a chance to visit inspirational galleries and museums in New York City. But he continued to paint, continued to learn from local artists and masters honored in the great museums of the city. He even sold some of his work while in New York.
Finding it impossible to support a wife and child as an artist, he returned from the service and made Memphis his home, finding a career at the Mid-South Coliseum. Still, he was an artist. Don’t call him a hobbyist - he was an artist supporting a family by doing something else. He was stirred by random pieces of “stuff” he found while on his job, which eventually was Operations Foreman, incorporating cast off items into his art. Eventually he was encouraged to publicly display his work, and in his 50’s put on his first show at the Universal Art Gallery. His mixed media work has been labeled folk art, which he feels boxes in his creativity. Like music “they feel like they have to categorize artists, but I’m just an artist” he told me. Now retired from his other role, he paints, continues to incorporate interesting items into scenes such as towns with “water towers”, flowers in “pots”, and more serious pieces displaying rural life in Mississippi and Dr. Martin Luther King’s march in Memphis to support striking trash collectors. He also speaks to groups of young aspiring artists, motivating them with his mission statement - “Freely God gives each of us a measure of talent in different areas to be expressed as best we can. Freely we must give back”
Come to Memphis, meet Frank Lilly, and ask him what he did with the “stuff” left in his yard after barbecues which were his wife’s way of keeping him close!