Beth Frey is a Canadian artist who works in a variety of media, including drawing, painting, video, sculpture and installation. Through her wry, absurdist sense of humour, Frey playfully draws out contradictions in her subject matter, be it gender, the body, or social media, often integrating representations of herself into her chromatic cartoon-like world. Working from her complexly layered watercolours, Frey incorporates accessible smartphone apps and AI image generation tools to expand this universe and bring her body into it as an active player.
Frey has an MFA in Painting and Drawing from Concordia University and a BFA from the University of Victoria. She has exhibited her work in a number of solo and group shows across Canada, Mexico and the US. Frey currently divides her time between Montreal and Mexico City.
With a formal background in drawing and painting, Frey has also embraced online technologies both as a toy and a tool. Using free social media apps to integrate elements from her watercolours and her body into videos, Frey morphs into grotesque cartoon beings as a way to inhabit the world she’s created. Additionally, through an online text-to-image generator, Frey uses text to collaborate with artificial intelligence in image creation. Starting from a series of performances where she uses costumes and props to build colourful compositions to feed the algorithm, Frey then carefully chooses language to emulate the visual language in her drawings and videos. A series of translations occurs, with imagery starting with the body, and then morphing into digital image, watercolour painting, and back to the body when Frey uses face swaps and digital collage in an attempt to become a moving painting.
Together, these approaches become Frey’s tools in world-building: a colourful, aqueous space that is at once utopian and dystopian, where the boundaries between human and animal, beautiful and grotesque, and light-hearted and morose are often blurred. Pulling from art history, pop culture, and her own visual lexicon, Frey’s cast of characters are ‘beautiful failures’ in their approach to expectations of gender as well as capitalist achievements. Frey’s sense of humour permeates these works, employing the absurd as a strategy in dealing with the anxieties of uncertain times.