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Viola Frey Essay

Viola Frey was an American ceramics artist who was known first and foremost for her larger than life sculptures. Viola’s purpose behind these giant figures was to show the world (mainly the art world) that there was more to sculpting clay than small figures, bowls, and cups. In the 1960s and 70s a group of artists, including Viola Frey, wanted to create ceramics as a effective form of art. This movement was called the “Revolution in Clay”. Before this movement the standard of the art of clay was revolved around smaller scale pieces and objects like bowls, vases, and cups.

This “standard” left the ceramics division of art in the dark, and it wasn’t something that people wanted to get into because it didn’t seem too challenging or exciting. The people involved in this revolution used different ways to overcome this expectation or standard. They began using new techniques in order to push the typical size scale of sculptures up. They discovered new methods for constructing, firing, and glazing that changed the department of ceramics completely.

For example, Viola Frey, along with the other artist that changed the department of ceramics, introduced the idea of building in pieces and using a scaffold on the inside of the figure to hold the entire piece together. Frey struggled when it came to making her pieces because she was old and had some physical limitations. Her assistant of 17 years, Sam Perry, helped her put her crazy ideas together and help the construction process when she couldn’t do it. Her physical limitations were never an excuse for her not being able to build these larger than life sculptures.

Her time spent in her studio when she was busy coming up with new ideas and constructing her pieces helped her forget about her physical setbacks, and kept her chugging along. Frey’s sculptures exceeded the size expectations in the clay world. Each of her pieces stood no shorter than 10 feet tall and weighed thousands of pounds. In order to build her figures, Frey would build the entire piece then wait for it to dry. After it would dry she would then saw the piece into individual pieces in order to fire them. Once fired, she would then glaze each individual piece. After the firing was all done, the pieces would be reassembled.

Viola Frey is known mostly for her exhibition “larger than life”. In this exhibition she has multiple pieces that stand at least 10 feet tall. Her sculptures are her ideas of the culture that surrounds her organized and put into her original form of art. Viola grew up on a farm in California. She was surrounded by strong independent women, whom she used as models for some of her most recognizable and most beloved works. Viola was always preoccupied by the place of man and women in the world, as she continued she realized that the most powerful icon throughout art history was the nude woman, which belittled the icon of the business suited man.

The way she had constructed these naked women was so high art, and tried to make every little detail look almost real. You can see in some of these sculptures how the women’s breasts droop perfectly with gravity and how the hair hangs towards gravity as well almost giving in a flowing look. The colors that she had used on these nude women, I believe, show characteristics of women. The colors she used were mostly bright powerful colors that definitely showed the beauty that woman own and how women always have a way to make them selves stand out from the opposite sex.

One of my favorite sculptures of the nude women is the one where the woman is standing up tall and firm holding the globe in her right hand and staring directly at it. This piece takes my breathe away because when I look at it, it reminds me of the idea that women are the true leaders of this world and that without them there would be nothing, and that the women in our lives are the ones that do look out for us the most, so having the figure stare directly at the globe is the same as saying that one’s mother is constantly watching over her children.

The colors that she used were eye-catching colors, which to me show the beauty that women carry inside of them that, attract the opposite sex to them. Viola uses stoneware clay for these sculptures, and she usually in working on about 5 projects in a month, and she usually gets them done. Once the sculpting is completed the figures are sawed into pieces that can fit in the kiln in order to be fired. Once the pieces are fired and glazed, the pieces are then put back together and are ready for Viola to paint them.

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