Born in 1933, Viola Frey grew up on her family's vineyard in Lodi, California, and died in Oakland, California, in 2004. She received a BFA in 1956 from California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) where she studied painting with Richard Diebenkorn and ceramics with Vernon "Corky" Coykendall and Charles Fiske.Her fellow students included Robert Arneson, Manuel Neri and Nathan Oliveira. After receiving her bachelor's degree, she attended graduate school at Tulane University and studied with Mark Rothko and George Rickey. She left Tulane in 1957 without receiving her master's degree and moved to New York to work with ceramicist Katherine Choy at the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, New York. The Clay Art Center was one of the earliest venues on the East Coast geared toward artists exploring ceramics as a fine art medium without the functional constraints of craft.
As expressed in an essay by art critic Donald Kuspit, "Frey has certainly tested—aggressively stretched—the limits of freestanding sculpture in her giant, brash, richly colored figures, but her plate pieces—essentially pictorial reliefs—are more subdued, indeed much more introverted."Frey's tondo plates, ranging in size from 26 inches to 36 inches in diameter, are described by Kuspit as "a remarkable, innovative, contribution to ceramic sculpture, for she shows that it can be formally exciting as well as iconographically trenchant without losing its intimate touch…"
Although most renowned for her ceramic sculptures, Frey also created a significant body of two-dimensional works that have been widely exhibited. Her paintings and pastel drawings reflect her love of the human figure, her colorful palate, and iconography similar to that used in her sculptures.Wikipedia