Frey’s Findings

Viola Frey lived her life like a cavalry charge. Although frequently inappropriate in her critiques of student work, she had a following in the sculpture world because of her work ethic (among other things).

“She used to time how many minutes it took one of her students to take a smoke break,” LC tells me during our interview this afternoon. “And then she’d tally it up at the end of the day and tell them, in front of the entire class, just how much time was wasted when they could have been making art. ‘Times that by twelve months!’ she’d shout”

While my intent was to focus on Frey’s influence on LC’s work ethic as a sculptor herself, I synchronously uncovered truths about this woman’s approach to art that bear significance on my own acts of creativity as well.

“Eventually I learned to take what I wanted and push aside anything Viola said about my work that I felt was unfounded,” LC says, retying her youthful strawberry blonde hair in a ponytail. Although in her early forties with a young daughter and now living in the heart of Apppalachia, LC is undeniably a California girl. She spent many years in and around Oakland, not the least of which were spent under the wing of Viola Frey herself. “Viola did not believe it was possible to be fully dedicated to art and have a family. She never took any of her students who had families seriously. I learned a lot from her but I don’t agree.”

LC has, after all, been raising a family for six years and still continues to sell out one solo show after the next in cities all over the country. Her hybrid figures are haunting and inviting, dreamlike yet frighteningly real, and most of them are life-sized, adding a particularly approachable quality to the work.

Considering that LC is perhaps a sociological sister of Frey, it is comforting to see the level of success she has attained as a mother, wife, artist – even though Frey might never have thought it was possible. Still, I take note of Frey’s meticulousness. How many minutes could be spent at the keyboard in one day? What factors in my life put strain on my creative capabilities? Where is there wiggle room in my schedule? What habits have I picked up that I am willing to drop, for the sake of more time in the writing office?

Something has got to give. My schedule changes for the Spring in two weeks and that should provide just the window I need. I am, after all, only eight months into my first adventures of writing and working alone for half of my employment. I may be disciplined, but some lessons need to be learned experientially. If I play my cards right this Spring, I ought to be able to work fewer hours at the coffeehouse and make up for it by selling my words instead.

And as for the beautiful friends in my life, and the ones I have yet to meet but will soon dance into the coffeehouse and offer late-afternoon craft confessions to me, leaning over the counter in clay-splattered clothing – I need them, too. There is art in watching them live their lives, in sharing moments with them and taking their advice.

Frey said there was no separation between her art and her life. In many ways, that is what my daily writing here is about. Sleep deprivation, mini-dramas, and self-ridicule, however, have no sustained place in a truly artistic life. They suck the marrow out of words and threaten the very breath of creativity itself. I will strive to find a balance that forbids these things to tip the scales. I will form my sentences from the rhythms of the cavalry’s stomping hooves, my stories like tracks across the field of the page, my success slow and steady, building like a series of battle victories.

  • Vic

    That last line packs a whallop! The hinge on the top of my head flapped open – always a sign of something good – bravo.


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