A former financial planner, Owens chucked it all to become an artist just a
few short years ago. Exploring her love for contrast and color, she became
fascinated with creatures like the Bengal tiger (as well as zebras and
giraffes) and created a series of striking watercolors as her first pubic
What started as the perfect theme to display her chosen medium, catapulted
Owens to the international spotlight, and served as the visual symbol for a
multi-million dollar effort against poaching.
“I didn’t set out to make a political statement, notes Owens, “the tiger
was the perfect expression of color and contrast.”
The work attracted the attention of Donald D. Humphreys, an executive with the
ExxonMobil Foundation, one of the sponsoring organizations of the “Save the
The group launched in 1995 with the goal of saving tigers from an almost
assured extinction. Since then the group has supported projects in 13 out of
the 14 tiger range countries, and raised millions corporations, non-profits
and schoolchildren throughout the world.
Working with Save the Tiger, Owens uncovered a compelling story that inspired
the next of her tiger endeavors; a study entitled “Did I Die in Vain?”
In 2005, Owens heard the story of John Goodrich, a New Yorker turned
Coloradoan whose passion for the soon-to-be-extinct Siberian tiger led him to
Russia. As the coordinator of the WCS Siberian Tiber Project, Goodrich and
his team were in the field when they heard a tiger’s roar among the dense
Russian forest. Following the sounds, they came upon a 385-pound Siberian
tiger caught in a snare set to keep the carnivore from killing nearby
livestock. They rescued the tiger, nursed him back to health and eventually
released him back into the wild.
“Victor”, as the tiger became known is now immortalized in a nine-piece
series. Owens describes, in vivid black and white relief, the many threats to
the species –traditional Asian medicine, smuggling, tiger farming, poaching,
the shrinking of habitat, and organized crime.
While sobering, the series ends with a representation of “Victor’s” emancipation. The piece called “Release” shows the animal jumping to
freedom from the back of the WCS team’s Land Rover.
The series is featured on www.savethetigerfund.org, where Owens is credited
with “tak(ing) action the way she knows best, with her brush.”
While Francesca is surprised by the “advocate” moniker, she is no stranger
to environmental protection.
As Francesca describes it, she saw a peek at her passion in the early
2000’s, when a Blue Heron nesting site in her Littleton neighborhood was
being shopped by a developer. Owens joined the Bowles Metro District Board to
advocate for the precious piece of land and the precious birds it housed.
After a drawn out battle, Owens negotiated a deal, and site is now the Isthmus
Nature Park and Learning Gardens, a nature preserve and educational park
dedicated to the protection of several valuable species, including blue herons
and bald eagles. Not just the herons thanked her; she was named the Special
District Association’s Board Member of the Year in 2003.
It might seem that Owens would have rekindled her artistic passion on a trip
to Siberia, or Nepal, or Senegal. Instead, Italy was the site of Owens'
decision to become a full time artist. A second generation American,
Francesca’s first trip to Italy was a trip to see cousins in 1996. There,
among the close-knit community of farmers, Francesca’s artistic flame was
“The community is so warm and welcoming, and the landscape so beautiful. The
combination allowed me to explore a longtime love of art, and gave me the
confidence to create,” she noted.
Her return back to the U.S. brought upon “reverse culture shock”, but art
kept the connection alive.
She has made many trips back since then, and caught the eye of Italian art
critic – Edo Barzagli - while studying at the Lorenzo Di’Medici Art
institute in Florence. He notes the “remarkable richness” of her paintings
and has since showcased “Tiger Gaze” and other Owens works in the gallery.
With critical acclaim, Owens has found an Italian following, and has just
recently been commissioned by an Italian executive to paint a large scale“Tiger” for the woman’s Roman home.
The attention pushes Owens one step closer to her dream. She hopes to one day
split her time between Italy and the U.S.
“When I am in Italy, I am home,” she notes.
The divorced mother of two will soon be living “Under the Tuscan Sun”,
following her showing in Cortona – the setting for the famous book cum movie– she’ll spend the summer painting the Tuscan countryside and teaching in
nearby Austria at the Styrian International’s 2006 Summer Art Festival in
The accolades surprise Owens, but she recognizes the synchronicity in her
story. Her grandmother came to the U.S. in 1920 from the little town that now
screams out “The American is here”, upon Francesca’s arrival. Her mother
was born in the Bronx and despite her short life (she died when Francesca was
just 24), she too was an artist.
Hung prominently in Owens’ home and studio is a tribute to her mother, her
mother’s art and her heritage.
“My newest endeavor is a series of Italian landscapes,” notes Owens. “In
part it is a repayment of the debt I owe to my family, my heritage, and my
Interested art lovers don’t have to travel all the way to Italy, however, to
see Francesca’s art. Her pieces are showcased right here at Willow: An
Artisan’s Market located in Littleton and at the Wilson Adams Gallery, in
Denver. Upon arriving home from her four-month jog in Italy, Francesca’s art
will appear in a joint show at the Curtis Arts and Humanities Center in
Greenwood Village. The show, called “From Davinci” will run from October
14 through November 11, 2006 and feature Italian artists from around the
Francesca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and her portfolio can be
viewed at www.francescaowens.com.