Many Connections. One U.

Alumni Profile

on October 24, 2011 by Janet Edwards

Claire Frandsen
Claire Frandsen
Claire Frandsen, '08

Frandsen, ’08 crafts sculpture of comedian on display in NYC

For a young sculptor, having an artwork selected for display in New York City is a big deal. But Claire Frandsen, ’08 hadn’t anticipated it would be one of her more unusual scuptures to draw this focus: a small statue she made of comedian Conan O’Brien has been included in a show of art produced by his fans.

Frandsen created her first Conan statue for her boyfriend, John Conroy, as a gift. They’re both fans of the comedian, and she’d gotten tickets so they could see him perform at a St. Louis benefit earlier this year. She made one Conan sculpture for Conroy to go along with the tickets she was giving him. She made a second one that she sent backstage at the benefit, in the hopes that it would reach O’Brien. She doesn’t know if he ever received that version, but she also uploaded pictures of her boyfriend’s sculpture to the photo-sharing site flickr and a website where fans displayed art they’d made in O’Brien’s honor.

Her piece drew notice and was selected for a show loftily named The New York Museum of Conan Art, or “NY COCO MoCA,” made up of original artwork by fans of the comedian and late-night television host on TBS. The art will be on display on the second floor of the Time Warner Center from Oct. 24-Nov. 30. The show is free and open to the public. 

“It’s pretty incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime thing, almost,” Frandsen said recently. “It’s different from my other work, and I just did it for fun. It’s hilarious that it ended up in New York.”

Frandsen, a Fenton resident, earned her BFA in Studio Art from Maryville University. To create the Conan sculptures, she used the “lost-wax method,” which she learned from studio art instructor Sherri Jaudes, ’95. She sculpted the Conan likeness in wax and encased the wax in a plaster mold. She then burned off the wax in a kiln, creating a cavity that she filled with melted pewter. She broke off the plaster mold when the pewter cooled and attached the sculpture’s head and arms. The finished pewter statue stands about 5-inches tall and 6-inches wide. The base, made from copper, ultimately was designed to look like O’Brien’s shadow. (It’s different in the picture shown here.)

Frandsen's Pocket Sized Conan sculpture (4.75" x 1.5" x 6")

Frandsen is the daughter of Gary and Geralyn Frandsen, ’83, EdD, professor of nursing in the School of Health Professions. Geralyn Frandsen explained that her daughter, in addition to creating her own art, works both with prominent Chesterfield-based sculptor Don Wiegand and at Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis County, where she is a museum services assistant. Claire’s family is excited about the response Frandsen’s Conan O’Brien work has been getting. Of her reaction, Geralyn Frandsen said she was: “Thrilled! Her dad, too. Now we have to figure out how to get to New York to see it.”

O’Brien’s fans have particularly showed their appreciation for him since last year, when NBC sought to move “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” to a later time slot, in order to move host Jay Leno out of prime time and back into late-night programming. O’Brien moved to TBS, and his more artistically inclined audience members began making “fan art” to show their support during the TV conflict. Frandsen said only that the programming conflict at NBC “really cemented my opinion of Leno” but remained diplomatic. “That’s all I’ll say on that,” she added light-heartedly.

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