Creative Journey: La Jolla artist Faiya Fredman is still exploring new techniques at age 90


Longtime La Jollan Faiya Fredman, who will turn 90 in September, has been making art for most of her life. She began as a young child during the Depression, painting at an easel her father made for her to compensate for the loneliness of a life in the desert when his architecture/contracting business in Phoenix collapsed. She went on to study Visual Arts at UCLA, explore a wide range of media, and see her work shown around the world, as well as locally, at the Athenaeum and Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Her work includes mixed-media paintings and large-scale steel sculptures, but she is probably best known for her botanical images, which start out as bits of leaves, twigs and flowers arranged on a flatbed scanner. They are arresting, unusual pieces that show flora, not at the peak of their freshness, but withering, on their way out. Derrick Cartwright, former director of San Diego Museum of Art, called them “luminous compositions of breathtaking beauty.”

What draws her to create these portrayals of decomposition?

“I want people to look at life as a process we all go through,” she said. “The buds symbolize birth, then there’s the flowering and the withering. I’m showing that the withering can be just as beautiful as the buds.”

Curator Marc-Elliott Lugo, who presented several shows of Fredman’s works at the Pacific Beach Library and included her in the recent exhibit of “100 artists, 100 years” at the Oceanside Museum of Art, is a fervent admirer.

“Most of her life, she’s been concerned with the cycles of life and nature, and there’s always a profound element to her work,” he said. “And her pieces are never just decorative; they’re elegant.”

These days, she is using her scanner to combine botanical images with mementos from her travels with her late husband, Milton “Micky” Fredman, a dynamic civic activist and the first chairman of San Diego’s Commission for Arts & Culture. Together, they visited ancient sites that often inspired Faiya’s art.

Now, some of the puppets and masks they collected are showing up in her new pieces, multi-layered lenticular prints that are turned into shifting-image 3-D by a specialized printer in Los Angeles.

One of the interesting things about Fredman is how tuned-in she is to technology — not bad, for a 90-year-old whose husband wouldn’t let her use his first computer years ago. “He thought I’d get it all messed up,” she recalled. “But finally he decided to give me my own computer, and I had somebody come in and teach me how to use it.”

She still has the original large-scale printer she used to create layered prints for her photo collages of Greek ruins and local coastlines, though she now has an even larger one with top-quality color and archival paper for her current work.

“She’s always moving forward,” said Allwyn O’Mara, who has been Fredman’s assistant for over 20 years. “The little girl who started making art at 4 years old is still creating, and using all her high-tech tools like a painter.”

“Did you see my latest pieces?” Fredman asked, when interviewed at her home. “I’m kinda pleased with them myself. Every time I come up with a new idea, that’s my favorite.”

What is a Lenticular Print?

Lenticular printing is a multi-step process used to produce printed images with the illusion of depth or the ability to change as the image is viewed from different angles. This process can be used to create various frames of animation (for a motion effect), offsetting the various layers at different increments (for a 3D effect), or simply to show a set of alternate images which may appear to transform into each other. Source: Wikipedia