Living abroad in London for 20-plus years spoiled Patricia Frischer a little bit when it came to tapping into local visual arts scenes. She was used to getting her hands on an easily accessible magazine and listing of resources for the city, so when she moved to San Diego in the late 1990s, it was a surprise when she couldn’t find the same.
“When I arrived in San Diego, I knew no one, so I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and asked for the visual arts guide. They laughed at me,” she says. “(San Diego Visual Arts Network) is my own personal address book made public as I discovered this rich, visual arts community which seemed to be hidden from the general public.”
SDVAN is an online directory and calendar she founded and coordinates for local visual arts events. They list 2,500 visual arts resources, from Fallbrook to Baja Norte. The database is intended to foster and improve the discourse about local art and culture, and facilitate opportunities for collaboration on visual arts projects. She calls it a combination cheerleader, chamber of commerce, and unpaid lobbyist for the visual arts. A new exhibit, “Patricia Frischer: In Record Time,” is a collection of some of her work, on display at the Cardiff-by-the-Sea Library through Jan. 30, with a reception scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 14.
Frischer, 74, lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea with her husband, Darwin Slindee, a physicist and “the perfect yang to my yin.” She took some time to talk about her arts organization, continuing to steer its growth, and her current exhibition.
Q: Why have you wanted to continue working with SDVAN and serving as coordinator?
A: I have had such tremendous fun creating large events with lots of participants because I meet new and interesting people all the time. These large events are what originally got SDVAN noticed as they drove people to the website. For example, for the “Movers and Shakers” exhibition, none of the 80 VIPs said “no” to having their portraits interpreted by local artists, and they all showed up for the openings. All of those VIPs in one room at one time was such a high. In the last five years, we have become advocates for the visual arts on the state, county and city levels. It has been satisfying to see so much money pour into the arts since the pandemic, but there were years of work to accomplish the return of the San Diego County arts and culture commission [which will support and manage arts funding in the county].
Q: Tell us about your current exhibition, “In Record Time.”
A: In August, Susan Hays, with the Friends of the Cardiff-by-the-Sea Library, asked if I had enough work to show for a November exhibition. She coordinates the shows, and I was lucky that she realized I would be a good match for the space. A library has so many books and shelves and computers and other distractions not usually found in a gallery, that you need large works. I had already made about a dozen painted records, but their small size means that they have to be shown in a block. I knew I needed larger paintings to hold the other spaces. I also knew that this public space had to have non-controversial art — no mating couples, or headless men, or skirtless women. Choosing past works definitely influenced the rest of the records that I created, especially for this show.
Q: In part of your description for this show, you talk about how “In Record Time” places us in “the fast lane of a changing world” and how it also refers to vinyl records that tell the story of “a life with lots of moving parts.” How quickly has the world been changing, from your perspective? And, how would you describe the moving parts of your own life, so far?
A: We all feel that the Internet has made the world smaller and larger at the same time, and the older you get, the faster time goes by and the more you have to learn about technology. The pandemic made us all slow down and most artists found this a very productive time to be creative in the solitude of their own studios. Now, as we are starting to go back out into the world, it is shocking how much there is to do. It has become important, once more, to prioritize. I try to remember to balance having a rich and fulfilling life with having a healthy one.
What I love about Cardiff-by-the-Sea …
Cardiff-by-the-Sea is in Encinitas and is full of artists. We just successfully advocated for, and the city finally gave us millions for a new art center at Pacific View School. It warms my heart to know that when I am no longer able to travel the world, my hometown is art-centric.
Q: How did you get your own start as a visual artist?
A: I was in high school when I took my first silver jewelry course. I loved working with my hands in three dimensions and went on to Washington University in St. Louis to work with a master silversmith. After two years, I was advised to expand my vision and move to San Francisco. My jewelry became so large that I was asked to move to the sculpture department where I became a bronze and aluminum caster. My work got funkier as I became more of a hippie, and more meaningful during the women’s liberation movement.
Q: What medium/media do you typically work in?
A: I took a mass of color courses on my way to my master’s of fine arts, but never painted. I almost knew too much about pure color to let loose, but when I moved out of the U.S., I had no way to continue casting, so I started painting. I use gouache and Neocolor (a water soluble, densely colored crayon). I find that with these two media (which are compact enough to travel with me) I can make work that looks like watercolor, pastel or acrylic. Last year, I learned a tiny bit about glass casting from my friend, Michelle Kurtis Cole, and did a series called “Not Your Mother’s Fingerbowl.” I also made these works in glycerin soap, plaster and isomalt sugar.
Q: How would you describe the style(s) of art that you create?
A: I have traveled extensively, painting whenever inspired, but never directly from the scenery around me. My work, however, is not abstract, but always tells a story. I call it neo-narrative as the story is never a linear one; instead, even as each work stands on its own, it is often necessary to see the whole series to grasp the larger concept. I have even done single works that are made up of a dozen individual framed pictures, with the image running out of the frame and onto the next work. Two dimensions is often just not enough for me.
Q: What inspires you in your work as an artist?
A: Since anything and everything can inspire me, it is more a matter of what motivates me to work. I used to like the pressure of knowing I had an entire exhibition with a set deadline. Now, I can get that same creative push from being asked to make one work for a group show. My first two records for “In Record Time” were commissions from an ArtReach auction at Art Walk. I just keep going because when you are in a groove, it is like good sex: Why stop?
Q: What’s been challenging about your work?
A: For this show, figuring out how to hang the records was a challenge that was solved with plate hangers. Plus, the price of used records soared from $1 to $5 each, which is why I am requesting the donation of a used record to be eligible for a raffle for one of those on display.
Q: What’s been rewarding about this work?
A: No artist wants to make art and hide it under the bed or in the closet. Getting to show the work gives you a sense of contributing to the community.
Q: What has this work taught you about yourself?
A: In many aspects of life, you should never wait to be discovered. Putting yourself out there is scary, but empowering. I will continue to be proactive and encourage others to lead while following their own path of innovation.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: To ask permission is to seek denial.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I don’t actually like opening receptions because you can’t concentrate on seeing the art.
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: I am a night person, so I love a late start in the morning, with an extra cuddle in bed, a visit to an art show, and dinner with my art friends — as we all know, artists are the best cooks, so any time you are invited to an artist’s home for dinner, always say yes! And, why not a hot air balloon ride to give you some perspective on life?