Viola Frey (American, 1933–2004), a painter and sculptor, was born and raised in Lodi, CA, where her family maintained a vineyard of Zinfandel grapes. In her younger years, Frey often browsed art books from the local library and created watercolor pictures. She also depicted her friends and neighbors in drawings and oil paintings, which she would sell for 25 cents. At the age of 11, Frey was entered into a drawing show at the Sacramento Library for her copy of a drawing byHenri Matisse, a leader in the Fauvism movement, and a painter she greatly admired.

After graduating from high school, she attended Stockton College in California. Frey later went on to study at the California College of Arts and Crafts, where she graduated in 1956 with a BFA in Fine Arts. In New Orleans, LA, two years later, she earned her MFA in Fine Arts from Tulane University, where she studied under Mark Rothko, an Abstract Expressionist painter, and George Rickey, a sculptor.

Frey primarily focused on ceramics, but applied glaze in the style of abstract painters and incorporated knickknacks into the molds, making her work an original and defining addition to Modern Art. In the early 1960s, Frey continued to create sculptures and paintings while working as a billing clerk at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY. She returned to California in the mid-1960s, and taught ceramic arts at the California College of Arts and Crafts.

Frey's work has been displayed in both solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries across the country and overseas, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Butler Institute of American Art in Ohio, and the Museum of Ceramic Art in Japan. Her notable works include the collection Viola Frey: Plates 1968–1994, which was exhibited on a countrywide tour, and the collection Larger than Life: Ceramic Figures by Viola Frey, which included colorful sculptures of nine-foot-tall men and women in a cartoonish style. Other pieces from Frey include Focus on the Figure and Relationships/Interrelationships, both of which she completed later in her life. Frey died in her home in Oakland, CA, at the age of 70.

Timeline

1933
Born in Lodi, CA
1956
BFA, California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA
1958
MFA, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
2004
Died in Oakland, CA
NEA, Artist's Fellowship
NEA, Artist's Fellowship Grant in Sculpture
Awards of Honor, Sculpture, Arts Commission of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

Exhibitions

2010
Legacy in Paint and Clay, Sylvia White Gallery
1999
Nancy Hoffman Gallery New York, NY
1998
Rena Bransten Gallery San Francisco, CA
1997
Nancy Hoffman: A Perspective on Art, , Flanders Contemporary Art Minneapolis, MN
1994–1996
Viola Frey: Plates, Traveling Exhibition Ohio, New York, Washington, Texas
1995
Rena Bransten Gallery San Francisco, CA
1995
Carin Delcourt Van Krimpen Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1994
The Woman's Mentor Show, San Francisco Art Commission Gallery San Francisco, CA
1994
Nancy Hoffman Gallery New York, NY
1993–1994
Interiors, Champion International Corporation Stamford, CT
1993
20 Years, Nancy Hoffman Galleries New York, NY
1993
Majolica, Jane Hartsook Gallery New York, NY
1993
Modernism: Craft Breakthrough in N. California, California Crafts Museum San Francisco, CA
1993
Summer Exhibition, Rena Bransten Gallery San Francisco, CA
1993
, Nancy Hoffman Gallery New York, NY
1992
The Figure: Two Bay Area Artists, Christopher Brow, Gallery of Art, Johnson County Community College Overland Park, KS
1991
, Nancy Hoffman Gallery New York, NY
1987–1988
Asher/Faure Gallery Los Angeles, CA
1982
Mark Twain Bank Kansas City, Missouri
1980
Quay Gallery San Francisco, CA
1977
Wenger Gallery La Jolla, CA
1975
Hank Baum Gallery San Francisco, CA
1974
Wenger Gallery San Francisco, CA
1967
Contemporary Crafts Association Portland, OR
1964
"San Francisco Art Festival", San Farncisco, CA
1962
"California State Fair", Sacramento, CA
1961
"California Craftsmaen Bicentennial", Oakland, CA