We had the good fortune of connecting with John Frazee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
July 26th, 1949, NYC. 30th St and 2nd Ave. to be precise. I arrived, born in a city that would turn out to be the grandest experiment in cultural history. I would come of age in the 60s and 70s, surrounded by cutting edge music, theater, cinema and art. I felt an enormous obligation to create, a necessity, a drive, a compulsion deep within me. It was an extremely tough neighborhood and anyone with an interest in intellectual pursuits would surely put their lives on the line, I was willing. The fantastic High School of Art and Design was a gateway into all the technical aspects of art, the tools, materials and techniques were supplied by teachers who were tops in their respective fields, architects, illustrators, advertisers, photographers, the complete package, all in one place. The school motto was (Be true to your work and your work will always be true to you). The school was on 57th St. which happen to be the center of the art world at that time. When school let out I would ride the elevators in these massive structures entering one gallery after another filled with work from the masters plus all the up and coming artist of the day. Naturally, there was always the Guggenheim, the Whitney and Metropolitan, Chelsea and SOHO to fill any gaps in my education. This all paved my way to Pratt Institute which turned out to be an equally fantastic opportunity and I was fortunate enough to receive a full scholarship. My instructors always seemed to be the best available, I love them all and will be in their debt forever. They include Alvin Hollingsworth, Joseph Furgeson, Robert Natkin, Jochen Seidel, Mary Buckley and countless others. Then there were the streets themselves, the dirty Boulevards, backstreets and alleys, Washington Square, The Village, Alphabet City and then Central Park on Sundays. Running into Dali or Warhol on the street, smoking dope with famous and not so famous musicians or playing basketball with Jim Carroll. If you remained unenlightened by NYC – You simply weren’t paying attention. I’m not from New York, I am New York.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Over the years I have run the gamut on materials, technique and style. Currently I find myself using fire to achieve the results I desire. Deciding to abandon the brush and use flame as my tool du jour. This series began as an addendum to a series of sculptures I was working on at the time. Quite satisfied with the results, the charring, the smoke bubbling, cracking, wonderfully unexpected affects. Still I wanted more. Visualizing an old barn or silo where locals would find grandiose images of the virgin Mary or Jesus in the aged, stained, rusted patterns in these structures. Ghostly remains of residents long gone. This series is at a point where my subjects are all taking on lives of their own. As I feel the characters portrayed become hauntingly real. I begin by preparing my boards with several layers of paint, stucco or other textures or use previously prepared surfaces to fit my need. Then sketch out my idea onto the piece. At this moment it is only an idea. Using propane, butane or basically anything that will burn, I attack the surface. Yes it is dangerous! I create patterns, fields of color and smoke, allowing levels of decay and destruction to accumulate. At the same time controlling the work in progress by committing myself to details which bring life and personality to my subject. If I must give it a label, expressionism would probably fit this current series, as the color pallet forbids me to call it impressionism. I wish to have the figures I have created there, yet not quite there, vividly alive and yet prisoners of the past, living in a dimension between the blank board I began with and the completed character I have awoken. My art is all consuming, however I do enjoy the challenge of writing. I don’t call myself a writer for I have too much respect for the term. I love writing poetry which always stubbornly rhymes, and an occasional short story. I have been published many times over on the internet and print media including magazines and archival editions. My premise is much like the case of an infinite number of monkeys banging at an infatuate number of typewriters, eventually they will type out all the great literature ever written. I leave it to you humans to decide whether or not I have been successful.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Wynwood district, Miami Especially William Braemer’s, Art Fusion Gallery
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Frazee Fine Arts