Monumental Figures with Psychological Messages

By Castro, Jan Garden | Ceramics Art & Perception, June 2013 | Go to article overview

Monumental Figures with Psychological Messages


Castro, Jan Garden, Ceramics Art & Perception


AS A WOMAN BORN IN 1933 (D 2004), VIOLA FREY decided early on that she wanted to be an artist, first studying art at Stockton College. At the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, she studied painting with Richard Diebenkorn and ceramics with Vernon Coykendall and Charles Fiske. During Master's studies in New Orleans, she took a workshop with Mark Rothko. In this era, women were objects (not artists) in books; The Feminine Mystique and gender issues were not addressed. As Frey settled in Oakland, she began a bricolage collection, some of which found its way into her sculpture, which became known for its nude women and men with suits, among other forms.

It is interesting that today leading critics still disagree about what these forms suggest. What are the intentions and signifiers in Frey's body of work, including that on view at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in Manhattan? At a 4 October, 2012 panel on the artist's work at the New York University's Graduate Centre, critic Donald Kuspit's main argument was that Frey's art "holds out the possibility of sincerity in an insincere world" while Museum of Art and Design Curator Lowery Stokes Sims suggested that Frey's "explosive" use of materials, her representation of tensions between genders and her use of enormous sizes and scale were subversive and were her codified way of addressing the gender issues of her day.

Since I do not claim expertise, it is important to present the views of the Frey panellists before presenting my own. It is curious to me that, given their topic "Viola Frey: Making the Self", three of four panellists failed to even nod to the strong psychological and gender issues in Frey's art. The first speaker was Sharon Tanenbaum, the new executive director of the Artist's Legacy Foundation designed to promote the legacy of deceased artists; Frey donated her art and estate to create the ALF. Tanenbaum gave an audiovisual overview of Frey's art.

Kuspit's presentation "The Pursuit of Sincerity: Viola Frey's Figurative Sculpture" was unusual, wandering quickly from the new OED definition of 'sincerity' to Damien Hirst and Barak Obama. Kuspit then discussed how Frey's "humanizing" art portrays "sincere people" who form a "convincing family". He mentioned "a core of idealised parts clustered about idealised objects and a periphery of more or less alienated 'relatives' and 'strangers' composed of the split-off bad aspects of self and objects" before closing by saying Frey's art "celebrates human presence and individuality in its differentiated variety and it does so using the comparatively primitive technology of ceramics" and that "the quality of their consciousness and sincerity, their alert, serious faces and intense, complex emotions--is more to their point." Kuspit's entire talk did not name one specific art work by Frey. This talk did not seem 'sincere' to me. (All quotes from a transcript of the talk.)

Panellist Robert Cozzolino, essayist for the Hoffman Gallery exhibition Viola Frey: Echoes of Images, suggested that motifs of self dominate Frey's body of work and that these and other images were cross-pollinated in her studio. Cozzolino posited that a 19 x 19 x 2 inch ceramic plate, Artist Observing, shows the artist's self--her hands holding eyeglasses and her work gloves. Cozzolino's interpretation of the three figures in the centre of the plate--a woman running with a baby, her back to a man with one arm raised--is quite different from my own. Cozzolino sees this as a "woman striding forward" and a man "waving to someone outside the space of the plate" while I interpreted this as an overt sign of a family in discord or abuse. Since this work was created in 1977 and is frequently exhibited/published, am I the only one to see, in the man's raised arm and in the running mother with her back to the man and a baby in her arms, the artist's message that she sees the mother's distress?

Cozzolino next calls the Artist's Left Glove and Little Big Man, both made in 1987, "forcefully chromatic" and applauds Frey's "delight in the textural possibilities afforded by glazing so utterly ecstatic that they each appear to be composed from slabs of paint rather than ceramic. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Monumental Figures with Psychological Messages
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.