Born in Paris, Marie Franz has an artistic journey that traverses continents — from New York to London and finally, Barcelona. She discovered her passion for painting following a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia in 2016. This unexpected twist became the catalyst for a powerful form of art therapy, transforming adversity into vibrant canvases of resilience.
Her story unfolds against a backdrop of diverse cities, each imprinting a unique hue on her evolving artistry. From a foundation in interior design to the recent success of her solo exhibition in Barcelona, Marie shares her personal narrative that embraces vulnerability and a profound belief in the healing power of art. Looking ahead, her artistic journey extends beyond personal milestones, aspiring to shed light on the transformative role of art therapy for mental and physical well-being.
1. Can you tell us more about your early life in Paris and the influences it had on your artistic journey?
I was born and raised in Paris, immersed in a family of artists. My father received the Casa Velasquez prize and my uncle the Rome prize – both for their paintings. I grew up surrounded by art but never felt connected to that part of myself at the time. Instead, my fascination laid within the world of vintage cars and so I followed this passion as I came out of college.
2. What inspired your decision to move to New York in 1993 and study interior design?
The world of vintage cars was predominately male-driven, and I often noticed my younger age in the industry. I therefore decided to go to NY, perfect my English – I knew I would come back a more mature and better equipped individual, more suited to the vintage cars business. However, my plans changed – I decided to stay in the States. I noticed collection cars were less influential in the US and I found a new passion for fashion. I was enrolled at FIT where I often roamed the hallways of the interior design program. This is when I realized interior design was attracting me—most likely due to having watched my father work as an architect. Moreover, NYC was the place to be at the time and the projects in this sector were very exciting.
3. How does your experience in interior design shape your approach to art?
Having worked in interior design, I offer my clients a slightly different approach in regards to my art. After visiting the space dedicated to a future painting, I like to work together with my clients – choosing colors as well as sizing possibilities. We work hand-in-hand on the project. This gives the client the opportunity to participate in the experience. I use a similar approach in regards to my clients within interior design. I want them to feel the project is representing who they are.
4. How has your study of psychology influenced your artistic expression?
Psychology helps you discover who you really are. It guides you through the ups and downs of life and liberates your inner self. Furthermore, it allows me to enhance my creativity.
5. Living in different cities, from Paris to New York to London, how have these diverse environments impacted your artwork?
Living abroad is such an amazing experience. It allows you to discover so many cultures, styles, and atmospheres. It certainly taught me to take risks, to become more extroverted, and most importantly to believe in myself. As an expat, you are no longer part of a single community, you are you, discovering new parts of yourself everywhere you go.
6. Could you share the story of your diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia and how it led you to take up painting?
As soon as I arrived in Barcelona in the fall of 2015, I came down with pneumonia which was first wrongly diagnosed as bronchitis. After many weeks of ER visits and the worsening of my condition, I was given confirmation that I had a very bad case of pneumonia. I had a series of terrible skin reactions likely due to the amount of medicine I was taking. I also started experiencing pins and needles in my hands, arms and legs to the point I couldn’t walk first thing in the morning. I tried to ignore these signs as I didn’t know who to turn to.
During the summer of 2016 the pain and constant fog were so bad that I was forced to investigate further. I was given a series of brain and spinal cord MRIs and discovered I had 13 lesions in my brain. The news was very difficult for me to accept. I felt extremely lonely and lost. My children were only 11 and 16 at the time and I didn’t know what kind of future I would face. The neurologists first diagnosis was MS. A few months following it was determined that my diagnosis was actually fibromyalgia, a fairly unknown condition at the time.
7. How has the experience of dealing with these health challenges influenced your artistic style and subject matter?
I refused to allow myself to sink into depression with this news. My children needed me and I had an entirely new life in Barcelona to organize for my family. I started to paint in order to decorate the empty walls of our new home and I never stopped. This whole journey has been amazing. I met some incredible people through it. I used the pain and discomfort in my body to express my emotions on canvas.
8. Can you elaborate on the role of art therapy in your life and how it helps you cope with health issues?
While painting, I don’t feel the pain. It’s an amazing way to focus on the positive and let your hand lead the brush without thinking, without any expectations. No matter what the result might be, it’s an expression of my inner self
9. You have just wrapped up a solo exhibition at NoHo House gallery. Can you tell us about the show and any memorable experiences?
This is my 1st solo show in Barcelona and it has been an amazing experience thanks to Ulrika Talling Smith at NoHo House Gallery. Seeing the reaction of those around me, the interpretation they make of my paintings, and the response I had regarding the title of my show was very special. I felt it allowed people to open up about what they were going through as well. Showing my vulnerability through my art created a very special connection between many of my friends and even those I hadn’t yet met.
10. Looking to the future, what artistic projects or goals do you have in mind for your career as an artist?
My next steps will be to expand my art and viewings to the cities of Paris and London. More importantly though, my passion is now for helping bring awareness to the benefits of art therapy in regards to our mental and physical health.