Former UL professor takes a 40-year look in the rearview mirror, while also looking ahead
Paintings spanning the course of Lynda Frese’s four-decade career as an artist will be exhibited in the Paul and Lulu Hilliard Museum, on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, from Feb. 17-May 19, 2018. The exhibit is called, Holy Memories & Earthly Delights.
After decades of splitting time between passion and a profession, Lynda Frese’s artistic process flows without interruption. That means more hours are spent in the studio. More hours are spent traveling. More hours are spent reading. There’s time to ponder, time to reflect, time to pause. Inspiration no longer has to fit between semesters and syllabi.
An accomplished and beloved art professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for 30 years, Frese retired after the 2016 academic year, and in doing so, rediscovered the artist she once was and the artist she always wanted to be.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m living the dream that I had when I was 10 years old when I thought, ‘Oh, I’d really love to be an artist,” she says. “What’s it gonna be like to have an artist’s life?’ So in a way, this is coming back to the original dream….I’ve enjoyed exploring the notion of having a different identity. Because when you’re a teacher, so much of who you are is being a teacher. So you have to deconstruct that, and build a different idea of who you are.
“I feel very grateful for the opportunity to teach at the university, but now this is a new chapter that’s happening before I get too ancient. It’s been nice to turn the page.”
But, as Frese admits, it’s also been a joy and an honor to thumb back a few pages, as well — a privilege afforded to her while putting together the particulars of her upcoming exhibit, “Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights” at the UL Hilliard Museum. The 60-piece showing — which took several years to finalize — is comprised of art from 1978 to 2018, half of which come from Frese’s pre-Louisiana days spent as a budding photographer and artist in Northern California known for her mixed-media collages on silver-gelatin paper. The rest are a mix of pieces completed during Frese’s tenure at the university and the infant stages of retirement.
“It’s interesting to go back and forth — from the old to the new,” Frese says. “You look at some of my early gelatin-silver work, those pieces are made with materials that aren’t even manufactured anymore. The processes are obsolete. You couldn’t do that on the paper they manufacture today.”
While Frese is the lone artist featured in the exhibit, curator Laura Blereau was the brain trust behind the display. Blereau was introduced to Frese through Hilliard director LouAnne Greenwald, and instantly became intrigued by Frese’s story and work.
Spending hours together at Frese’s studio, the artist and curator found a way to link the old pieces with the new.
More specifically, Blereau took notice of Frese’s unique “figure-ground relationship” — how the focal point to many of her pieces (both then and now) isn’t a person or an object, but rather the world around them.
“[Blereau] felt that those early works held a sort of key to what I was doing now in a contemporary sense,” Frese says. “I didn’t really understand what she was saying. Artists are never good judges or editors of their own work, so I didn’t really get it. But she explained the connection — the figure-ground relationship.
“A lot of people focus attention on the figure, pick the figure, and then fill in the ground, or pick the ground, around that central figure.
It’s a very formalist way to approach art. I kind of inverted that process — the ground or the environment around the figure has as much, if not more, importance than the figure itself. Or sometimes, the figure will just melt into that landscape and Laura noticed that.”
Blereau also found ways to arrange the exhibit other than hanging pieces in chronological order. While sitting with the artist and privy to her entire catalog of work, Blereau commented on different, yet reoccurring themes in Frese’s pieces. For instance, Blereau pointed out that some of Frese’s art from different eras contained some sort of vessel as a focal point — a realization Frese never spotted through the years.
“It’s an emotional process for an artist to look back at the work that you’ve built a career with,” Frese says. “Of course, my work has been very personal. So it was enjoyable to go back, look at it again, with different eyes and in a different place in life, to see what I never saw before.”
Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights
Feb. 17-May 19
Paul and Lulu | Hilliard University Museum of Art.
710 East St. Mary Blvd., Lafayette. hilliardmuseum.org.
Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights includes works from 1978 to 2018, and is divided into eight categories that explore recurring visual themes. For example, nine pieces examine her longstanding interest in vessels and pottery, while another sixteen works are rooted in Jungian notions of the subconscious. The show features early formal experiments created in the darkroom, as well as collages and later mixed-media artworks that incorporate egg tempera and organic elements such as plants and insect parts.
The photographs on display range in technique from digital composites to silver-gelatin processes that incorporate a variety of toners affecting color including copper, selenium and vanadium.