|by Shauna Grissett, photos by Candra George
NATIVE NEW ORLEANIAN and this issue’s cover artist Jax Frey is like a wildflower in a summer field, blowing in the wave of a gentle wind, seemingly free from the conformities of a defined world.
Frey has lived many lives and fearlessly follows her dreams. Before becoming an artist, she lived in upstate New York, on a West Virginia farm, in El Paso and Denver and even attended medical school in the Dominican Republic. Eventually, she settled in California and went to a culinary academy, opened a catering business, studied business, marketing and life coaching and worked in sales at a software firm. But she always knew that one day she would be an artist, even though she has no artistic training. She says, “As a child, I didn’t know I could draw. But I always felt like an artist, and it was just a matter of time. I moved around a lot but my heart was always here. And that was the start of it all for me, missing New Orleans. I began to paint little things that I missed and remembered about the city, and it turned out that people really liked them, the mini paintings.” So, after living in California for many years, she moved home and has lived in Covington since 2006.
Frey is perhaps most well-known for her Little Views mini paintings, which are colorful, highly textured, mixed-media paintings on four-by-four-inch paintings of mostly New Orleans and Louisiana icons, landmarks and images such as Café du Monde, Commander’s Palace, Jackson Square and French Quarter scenes. On June 26, 2017, she painted and recorded her 20,000th Little Views mini painting and received world’s record status for the Most Original Acrylic Paintings on Canvas by One Artist from the World’s Record Academy, the world’s largest organization that verifies and recognizes new records based on unlimited categories. Since setting the record in 2017, she has now painted a total of 23,000 works of art, according to Frey.
In terms of her process she says, “There are a lot of steps to the mini paintings, and that’s what makes them special. I sculpt them out first and then ink, glaze and paint them. And, finally, I varnish them. They have a whimsical feel.”
Frey is working on a new series, which is featured on our cover, Jax What’s Cookin’ Kitchen Art. She says, “I have these new paintings that I’m doing, and they are more neutral, not quite such a blast of color. They look good in a more traditional home. They’re printed on fabric and then hand wrapped onto canvas. It’s a little different for me. I have to take my time rather than what I normally do with my really whimsical, loose paintings. It makes you grow as an artist, to try new things.”
In addition to the Little Views mini paintings, Frey does paint larger works and has the occasional show. “Every once in a while, I’ll do a show at the Ariodante Gallery, and I’ll paint what I want. I have a tendency to paint women. I created this group of women I call, The Gumbeaux Sistahs, and they keep showing up in my work. They’re Louisiana women that are having a great time and inspiring each other, and it just feels right. In fact, I’m writing a book about them. I’m writing most of it at St. John’s Coffee House in Covington, and I’m hoping to bring it out next year. I’m having a great time writing it; it’s hilarious!”
In addition to her works on canvas, Frey offers a product line of over 25 items based on her paintings. Her products include (but are not limited to): aprons, jewelry, coasters, giclées, napkin sets, ornaments, photo frames, scarves, tote bags, and cheese plates.
The artistic free spirit wraps up or rather paints the experiences that led her to this point. “I just did a painting called Authentic Song. It’s all about my artistic journey. Judgment, opportunity, learning, personal freedom and New Orleans … everything about this journey.”
For more information about Frey’s product line or to special order her mini paintings, go to artbyjax.com. Her work is exhibited at Ariodante Contemporary Crafts, 535 Julia Street.