Skip to content

B. Lodi, CA, 1933
D. Oakland, CA, 2004

Viola Frey has worked in many modes, from monumental figurative sculptures, to painterly plates, to intricate ceramic assemblages. Frey’s bright palette textured surfaces imbue her objects and figures with tension and a sense of urgency. While her plates explore aspects of her childhood and personal life, her larger ceramics often tackle broader themes of social critique.

Frey grew up on a farm and vineyard in Lodi, California, and moved to Oakland in 1960 after completing an M.F.A. at Tulane University in New Orleans. In 1965 she began teaching at the California College of Arts and Crafts, and in 1975 expanded her studio in Oakland so she could produce larger work.

Despite her interest in monumental forms, Frey was also drawn to the miniature. When she enrolled at California College of Arts and Crafts in 1953, she majored in Painting and studied under Richard Diebenkorn. Ceramics was not considered a fine art at this time, but Frey felt continually drawn to the medium, because, as she put it, the ceramics studio “had people of all ages in it. It seemed more like the real world. It was a community.” Frey’s embrace of craft soon enveloped her artistic practice. She collected small ceramic figurines from flea markets near her home and was fascinated by the decorative trifles that people leave behind. Frey would cast molds from her flea market trinkets and remake them into clusters of linked forms. For Frey, these pieces are a commentary on both material consumption and nostalgia.

Back To Top