Throughout her five-decade career, Viola Frey has produced an body of artwork that varies from ceramic and bronze sculpture, to paintings, and drawings, and includes explorations different mediums such as glass and photography. Frey is known for her larger-than-life, vibrantly glazed figurative ceramic sculptures of men and women. Her work focuses on the human figure while also studying qualities of texture and color. She was initially influenced by Bay Area Figurative painter Richard Diebenkorn, abstract artists George Rickey and Mark Rothko, and potter Katherine Choy.
Frey, along with fellow ceramic sculptors Robert Arneson and Peter Voulkos, was a key figure in closing the barrier between craft and fine art to progress the medium of ceramic sculpture in the 1960s and 70s. A teacher and maker for most of her life, Frey retired as professor emerita from California College of the Arts in 1999, co-founded Artists’ Legacy Foundation in 2000, and continued to work until she passed away in 2004.