Over the course of her five-decade career, Viola Frey produced an body of artwork that spans from ceramic and bronze sculpture, to paintings, and drawings, and includes explorations in the mediums of glass and photography. Frey is best known for her larger-than-life, colorfully glazed ceramic sculptures of men and women. Texture, bright color, and a focus on the human figure dominate her diverse body of work. She was initially influenced by Bay Area Figurative painter Richard Diebenkorn, abstract artists George Rickey and Mark Rothko, and potter Katherine Choy.
Frey, along with fellow ceramic sculptors Robert Arneson and Peter Voulkos, was instrumental in bridging the barrier between craft and fine art to push forward the medium of ceramic sculpture in the 1960s and 70s. A lifelong teacher and maker, Frey retired as professor emerita from California College of the Arts in 1999, co-founded Artists’ Legacy Foundation in 2000, and continued to work until she passed away in 2004.