Who: Jax Frey
Artist’s chosen location for interview: Her studio (103 Focis Street, Metairie, LA)
Q: When do you know it’s time to move on?
A: On a personal level, I think it’s time to move on when you are extremely unhappy with something, and you do not see a way of changing it, except to leave it behind. When there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to go.
When it comes to business, you know it’s time to move on when it ain’t makin any money, honey. [Laughing].
Actually, that’s not completely true because there are things that I still won’t let go of even though they don’t make a ton of money. There are a couple of different kinds of art that I love to paint. One is New Orleans focused. It’s the art that’s colorful and celebrating New Orleans icons. I also love to paint inspirational art for women. That doesn’t sell as well for me, but I keep making it because I’m a trained life coach, and the subject brings out all these emotions in the art. It’s fun for me. There’s no way that I’m giving that up.
Q: What instrument did you always dream about playing?
A: The ukulele. When I was younger I went to a party, and it was the best I’ve ever been to. It was an overnighter where everyone stayed at this big estate. When I got up in the morning, everyone was drinking coffee in the kitchen. They had all been partying hard the night before – dancing and drinking. But that morning in the kitchen, it was low-key, and there were all these musicians there. Several of them played the ukulele. It was the best feeling. I was peaceful and so happy. I could have stayed there all day drinking coffee, singing, and listening to the ukulele.
So, recently I bought myself a ukulele, and I’ve been teaching myself to play it. I have these meetings with myself where I list all the things I want to get done or have fun doing. They aren’t in any kind of order, and it’s not a life bucket-list or anything. Sometimes on the list my personal and business goals come together, and this time, the ukulele came up, so I went out and bought a ukulele that day.
Mind you, I’m really bad right now. It’s not going very well, but I’m having fun with it. I’ve been working on ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ and I can play about half of it right now.
Q: Where would you like to take a family member?
A: In the back of my mind, I have had images of parrots. I would really like to go to some exotic place – South America or somewhere – where I could rent a house, sit on a porch in nice weather and wear crappy painting clothes, listen to the birds, look out at the ocean, and paint parrots.
Parrots are so beautiful. They’re kind of mysterious. They look amazing in sunshine and the darkness. In this weird way, you can almost feel them as birds. I love the way they move, and I often find myself trying to get into their heads to feel what it would be like to see and hear and feel and smell the world as a parrot. I don’t know, I guess that sounds crazy, but there’s just something amazing about parrots to me.
I have four kids, and I’d bring all of them with me. My kids live all over the place. They’re all vagabonds like their mom, so it would be great to all be together.
Although, now that I’m thinking of family vacations, I’m reminded of this really bad one we all had together. [Laughing]. I took the kids to Yosemite, and we were camping out there. I had all these plans for us – we were going to go horseback riding and hike all around the grounds. Well, the first day, a bee flew in my eye and he got me so good. That happened the first day, and then we couldn’t do anything after that.
I had to wait it out for a couple of days, and then finally I drove the kids to an amusement park and told them that we weren’t camping anymore. They were as happy as can be, but it was pretty painful for me. Good thing it has a funny element – now that it’s all over.
Q: Tell me a story that involves a hat.
A: I don’t have any good hat stories, but I have a closet full of hats upstairs. I love hats. They’re like little sculptures. I buy them, but I don’t ever wear them.
It’s really a statement when you wear a hat. My head is a statement on its own, so I have to decide if I want my head to make a statement or my hat to make a statement. I always choose my head.
If I had to wear one hat, it would be the one I made last year. The hat is a giant art palette, and it fits tilted on my head. It has different colored paints splashed out on it and paint brushes glued to it. I did wear that one once. I didn’t wear it to my coffee house, mind you. [Laughing].
Q: How would you explain what you do in your art to someone who doesn’t speak your language?
A: I would just show them. That means I would get to break out the paint knives. That’s what fun about the way I paint – I use a lot of knives. It’s very hands on, and it’s all about getting in there and getting them dirty. It’s pretty self-explanatory because as you go along and experiment, you figure out what movements make what kind of marks in the texture and paint. You swirl your knife or your hand around and get a certain texture, you have water splashing around, and you go with it. I get really dirty when I paint and have a paint wardrobe I keep for that purpose. People would have to be willing to get a little dirty with the work if they were to try it.
I taught myself to paint – I say that knowing that I got a lot of help from a lot of people. When I first started, I knew what kind of art I liked. I liked, and still like, art with high texture. I like when you can look at the art and see lines in it and see marks in it. But, the way I taught myself – and this has been about 8 years now – is that I would go to art stores and make a nuisance of myself.
I would be in the store, I would look at the different items, and I would ask, ‘Hmm…what is this? What kind of mess can I make with this?’ And then I would try to turn that item into something beautiful on canvas. That’s the way it worked out.
Jax Frey’s work will be exhibited at the Ochsner Art Walk (315 Jefferson Highway) for the full month of November. You can view her paintings on her website as well as follow her on Facebook. Be on the lookout for her next 36 paintings, which will tip her over to a total of 18,000 paintings in her repertoire. Visit her gallery and gift shop, Jax Art & Gifts, at 103 Focis St., Metairie, LA