Timothy Blair Frye
Timothy B. Frye (April 11, 1970 – May 29, 1997) was an American painter who was substantially influenced by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele and was a prolific producer of many works. His major works include paintings, sketches and other art objects, many of which are now in a variety of private collections.
Frye’s artistic style was influenced by a wide variety of personal experiences and media sources. As a teenager he sketched and drew with pen, ink and charcoal characters reminiscent of heroes and heroines from graphic novels and comic books. His figures were angular and strong (not unlike his own body type) with sharp contrasts between highlights and shadows.
Thematically his work was a study in contrasts as well—between good and evil, life and death, love and hate, sanity and madness, eroticism and chastity. As his work developed and he chose painting as his primary medium (acrylics), his knowledge of art history also expanded. He favored the works of artist Vincent van Gogh and the Austrian painters Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. As an art student he experimented with mimicking their style of painting and printmaking as he worked on developing a style of his own. Frye even bore an uncanny physical resemblance to Schiele’s self-portraits. Schiele's Self Portrait with Black Vase painted in 1911 could be a portrait of Frye (minus moustache) with the small addition of an ever-present cigarette between his long, slender fingers. The personal lives of these painters fascinated him as well, particularly Schiele who lived the quintessential artist's life—devoted to his work and his subjects (which were often nude females). Frye also possessed this same sort of passion about painting and art. He not only wanted to paint and draw but he wanted to live an artist’s life, which to him meant the freedom to work and to create without worrying about time, financial burdens or social constraints.
As an avid reader and a writer of journals and letters, in his early 20's Frye was drawn to the works of Oscar Wilde, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Each of these men wrote stories which mocked or defied outright social convention and morality. They expressed the world as they saw it or wished it to be and they preferred to live by their own moral codes which could be seen as wildly subversive by American standards. Raised in the small, southern Alabama town of Monroeville in the middle of the Bible Belt, Frye also struggled to be free of what he often considered to be hypocritical social constraints on morality as dictated by religious and political leaders. Painting and writing gave him an essential creative outlet to free his frustrated and/or suppressed emotions and desires. He also admired these writers, whom he considered great artists, for their wit, bold satire and sensual hedonism, characteristics which he included in his work and which he aspired to incorporate into his life.
Music was always an important part of Frye's life and artistic working environment as well. He rarely painted without it. Music was both inspiration and companionship to him. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, artists such as Morrissey of The Smiths, Matt Johnson of The The, and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails created lyrics which resonated with Frye as he searched to make sense and meaning of his own life. Morrissey's social satire and darkly witty songs amused and entertained Frye while Matt Johnson's and Trent Reznor's musical journeys into the inner depths of the soul as they explored the subjects of love and loss touched Frye on a more personal note. The loss of Frye's father during his adolescence marked him deeply and created within him a certain existential angst which he sought to work out on canvas and through his writing. In the early 1990s, Frye was also beginning to explore his sexuality and he became involved in several love affairs which provided a considerable amount of physical and emotional frustration and drama for him. Frye used these experiences, however, as an inspiration to create art. The more dramatic his life became, the more his work seemed to flourish.
In addition to the self-created drama that was his life, television and film were also great sources of inspiration and entertainment for Frye. Going back to his early days reading and drawing graphic novels, he was a fan of the animated short Aeon Flux, which aired on MTV’s Liquid Television in 1991. Aeon Flux was created by Korean American animator Peter Chung who, like Frye, borrowed artistic inspiration from Egon Schiele to style his leading heroine—a thin, muscular secret agent skilled in assassination and acrobatics. He also found great humor in the zany antics of the early episodes of the animated cartoon Ren and Stimpy. Another of his favorite TV shows of this time was Twin Peaks with its slightly twisted, surreal characters and correlating murder plot. It was originally directed by one of his favorite filmmakers, David Lynch. His taste in film usually tended toward foreign writers and directors (with the exception of Lynch) with one of his favorites being British filmmaker Peter Greenaway; particularly his films Drowning by Numbers, and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. Greenaway had also been a painter and his film sets were visually stunning, multi-layered and often provocative. The style and content of German filmmaker Wim Wenders' work also greatly impressed Frye, particularly his 1987 film Wings of Desire. This film is especially poetic and beautiful, mostly shot in black and white with occasional contrasting color scenes. The story also struck a personal chord of sacrifice and desire which Frye philosophically felt was somehow necessary in love; Wings of Desire is about an angel who gives up his immortality and chooses to fall to earth to experience life as a human to be with the one he loves.
It was this exploration of what it means to be human—to feel desire, longing and unrequited love, to feel passion and pain, to feel joy and loss—that fueled Frye’s creative drive. Frye attempted to create on paper and canvas what the other artists he admired created in different media—an avenue to get to the heart of this experience we call Life. He longed to find meaning and connection between people and objects. He yearned to feel love and understanding in a world that often seemed to him fractured and full of hate. His work allowed him an outlet of expression to let loose his existential angst, to experiment with different styles, textures and tones and to create his own images of poetic beauty and deep emotion.