Viola Frey Oral History Project

By the Archives

June 16, 2016

Funded by the Artists' Legacy Foundation

Viola Frey with monumental figures and paintings in her studio, Oakland, CA, 1987. Image courtesy of M. Lee Fatherree; artworks by Viola Frey © Artists' Legacy Foundation/ Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY 

In 2013, the Archives of American Art received support from the Artists' Legacy Foundation to conduct twelve oral history interviews capturing Viola Frey’s contributions to the art world, build on our efforts to document Bay Area art, and supplement our 1995 oral history interview with Frey conducted by Paul Karlstrom. 

Frey (1933-2004) worked in sculpture, painting, and drawing, but is most renowned for her large, glazed clay figural sculptures. These works identified Frey as part of a movement that helped to redefine the traditional boundaries of freestanding ceramic sculpture, while also exploring gender iconography and themes of social interaction. In her long career, Frey also produced a significant body of assemblages and two-dimensional works. Frey joined the faculty of the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1965, and was awarded the status of Professor Emerita in 1999.

Working with the Artists' Legacy Foundation, the Archives has identified subjects familiar with Frey's work and legacy. Each interview provides an in-depth oral history of the individual with special attention to their interactions with Viola Frey over time.