Webster natives expressing the world through art

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Two men from Webster Parish are thriving in the arts, and both attribute their lives in the arts in part to one art teacher in Minden.

A photo of a magnolia drawn by Geri Goss’ former art student Billy Wax. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald
A photo of a magnolia drawn by Geri Goss’ former art student Billy Wax. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald

Duane Franks, a native of Minden, and Billy Wax, who spent much of his childhood in Doyline, both say Geri Goss played an integral role in continuing in the arts. While both men have natural talent and imagination, they both say Goss taught them not only technique but how to express how they see the world.

Michelle Bates/Press-Herald
Michelle Bates/Press-Herald

“In addition to teaching the foundational principles and elements of art, Mrs. Goss showed me that your art is to be an extension of your emotions and heart,” Franks said. “Lines, shapes, forms, space, color and texture devoid of this expression only tell a part of the story. She taught me that art involves more than just technique and that it should tell a story that leads you beyond the page or canvas.”

Franks graduated from Minden High School in 1983 and now lives with his wife and children in Greensboro, North Carolina where he works as an artist, designer, consultant and merchandiser for Chartreuse Shopping and Retail in North Carolina.

Franks uses his arts background in Under Grace Ministries, where he and his family work with local, established churches to assist them in many different areas of ministry – helping them incorporate the new and the old.

“Many churches struggle to remain relevant yet true to who they are within their community,” he said. “We help them bridge that gap.”

Goss says Franks has always had a natural talent for the arts, and is glad to see he has thrived so well using his gifts.

“We studied perspective and shading, just the basics,” she said. “And once you get that, you can paint it. But they have to love it, and he did.”

Another student of Goss was Billy Wax. Goss says Wax was an artist to his core.

“He was totally wrapped up in art,” she said of her former student. “He loves to draw things. This was his life.”

She calls Wax becoming her student a “God thing.”

“It was just instant,” she said. “We just loved each other. You would think one that young would be nervous or timid, but he wasn’t. I didn’t teach him art; he was born with it. I did teach him shading, and distance and perspective, those things that really help you when you are an artist.”

Wax said Goss was more than an educator to him.

“Mrs. Goss wasn’t just a teacher, she was my mentor, my inspiration and friend,” he said. “She still is today. Many people in the area do not realize what a treasure they have in Minden, Louisiana with Mrs. Geri Goss.”
Following a near fatal car crash in Arkansas in 1984 that left his mother with some disabilities, it wasn’t until some years later that his high school art teacher in Chanute, Kansas, encouraged him to draw again, refocusing on his expression of life through the arts. Fast forward to 2014 – Wax set out on the road with the encouragement and support of his girlfriend and now business partner Heather Andrews selling his original artwork. With that and his archival Giclee prints, his art has become a success. He is now a children’s book illustrator, an art and sculpture instructor and is about to publish his first book, “The Kisatchie Kids,” which is both written and illustrated by Wax.

And it is through these expressions of life – art – Wax and Franks have become successful in their God-given fields.

“To this day, I can remember sitting in her studio with my graphite and a tortillion pencil and using the chiaroscuro technique to draw the shadows cast as light passed through a clear glass bottle,” Franks said. “Asking her, ‘How do you know when you are done with your piece of art?’ She replied, ‘You’ll feel it.’”

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