"As an artist who likes to write in pictures, my primary interest is human behavior and perception. I am fascinated in the ability of people to contrive selves in a projection of what each individual desires to be or believes to be at the moment. To study individual identity in terms of its social reality is to work in the realm of
Moliere. As individual behavior extends to national identity I am constantly curious at how we perceive ourselves and project ourselves as opposed to how others perceive us. In order to deal with our carnival society with its models, pop icons and political idols designed to trick us, my first defense is to become invisible by blending into the surroundings. Then to observe and record. In a world of accepted ideas my job is to strip them of their acceptability and, in a style influenced by the drawings of children, mad persons, brutes and outsiders, I practice the playful juggling of serious issues."
Gina Freschet, born and raised in San Francisco, is an artist who likes to write in pictures. Her unique illustrative style depicts sociopolitical themes through cartoon figures and elementary sketches. Seemingly simple caricatures are representative of a complex thought process laced with satiric humor. A self-proclaimed sign painter, Freschet considers her work unmoored from any specific artistic movement in the canon of art history. Stylistically, Freschet’s compositions are a pastiche of pictorial and script based signs, graffiti gesticulations and children’s drawings. Given the wide scope of her craft, Freschet’s oeuvre refuses fixity of any one genre.
As a School of Visual Arts (SVA) undergraduate, Freschet studied illustration. After graduating SVA with honors, Freschet proceeded to teach a class at SVA for an academic year during which she became a freelance illustrator at The New York Times. Still eager to express her creative forces, Freschet took it upon herself to learn how to paint. The artist took a liking to oils due to their forgiving properties—oils could be easily manipulated wet or dry—unlike other mediums such as watercolors. Up until the 1980’s, Freschet was working strictly in black in white. Consequently Freschet had to readjust her mode of thinking; instead of working from a mental palette of grisailles, she was suddenly executing her ideas in Technicolor.
Living in downtown Manhattan as an artist in the 1980s was pivotal for Freschet. As a bit of a social outcast, Freschet felt quite at home in the East Village. However, her reclusive nature did not seem to deter the process of befriending mentors, or other notable figures like Jean-Michel Basquiat. As an East Villager, Freschet frequently crossed paths with Basquiat and eventually maintained a brief friendship with him. Stylistically, some of Freschet’s work can be likened to Basquiat’s given their mutual penchant for bright colors, rudimentary sketches, and ideogrammatic compositions.
By the late 1990s, Freschet relocated to Mexico. She sought spiritual refuge in Mexican culture, folk art tradition, vibrant hues, and extraordinary topographical elements. Freschet discovered Mexican artists to be great sign painters, which allowed for a significant grooming of her own pictorial lexicon. Distanced from her native soil, Freschet began to slake her soul with a form of expressionist painting. Images, icons and impressions were slathered onto canvas like acts of contrition. Freschet also was reunited with her first love: illustration. She was constantly inspired by the quotidian of Mexican life—from casual conversations with people on the street to cultural customs—and soon these impressions began to reconfigure in her head in the form of a narrative. As a result, the artist began writing and illustrating several children’s books. Saturated with dreamlike, folk-art-inspired imagery, Freschet’s books were a reflection of the new life impressed upon her.
Throughout the years Freschet has continued to expand her artistic repertoire by creating works on paper, watercolors and collages. Freschet’s process is not tethered to the restriction of time; sometimes a work can be birthed easily, whereas in other instances it can take up to a year to complete. The one element that does matter is scale. Freschet confesses to there being a certain amount of intimacy between her and her work, which in her mind, would not successfully translate in a large composition. Her largest works measure 3’ x 4’. Perhaps this can be attributed to her background in illustration that required a certain amount of detail within a restricted space. When asked about certain themes in her work, Freschet prefers the call them ‘attitudes’:
I’m interested in communicating, but not interested in preaching…It’s kind of like introducing you to something you’ve always known and upon viewing a work, you instantly recognize it….I want my art to make people think, make people laugh…My hope is that it will make people step a little outside of themselves. If it puts you off, that’s good!
Freschet believes that the purpose of art is to encourage people to believe in the possibility of transcendence, and that its reason is to remind people that there is an elevation that belongs to them.
School of Visual Arts (SVA), New York, New York
2000 - 2017
Artwork in Galleries, Group Shows
William Bennett Gallery, SOHO, New York
William and Joseph Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Globe Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Art Movement Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
1990 - 2000
Artwork and Books:
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Books for Young Readers:
Beto and the Bone Dance
Winnie and Ernst
Winnie and Ernst II
Feetman and Mr. Tiny
1980 - 1989
Artwork and Periodicals:
New York Times Op Ed Page
The New Yorker
New York Magazine
Canadian Sun Times
Scribners & Sons