Skip to content
Terri Friedman in her studio, 2021.

Introducing… Terri Friedman
Terri Friedman makes intricate and tactile weavings, some of which will be included in our exhibition “Shapeshifters,” opening October 28th. We chatted with her ahead of the show, to learn about her background in sculpture, how she came to work with textiles and her love of neon colors.


George Adams Gallery: Tell us a little about how you grew up.
Terri Friedman: I was born in Denver. My dad was a grocer, and my mom was an interior designer. We spent a lot of time in the mountains. My grandmother knitted since she was 5 years old - she was a yarn hoarder – she had a huge room in her basement filled with yarn. This was in the ‘60s and ‘70s and there were a lot of neon colors. I would visit and we would knit together.
GAG: Were you thinking about becoming an artist?
TF: Mostly about getting out of Denver. I wanted to be in a big city, and I wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t have the courage. I always loved to draw, and it was in high school that I first thought I could be an actual artist. I went to the RISD summer program, but I was still an academic and too nervous to go to art school, so I thought I’d go to Brown and take classes at RISD. At Brown my dad convinced me to major in pre-law but that didn’t last very long. I ended up taking a year off and interned for Charles Simonds in New York. He was preparing for his show at the Guggenheim.
GAG: Why Charles Simonds? I don’t see the connection.
TF: If you saw my early work, it would make sense. I was really interested in temporality and impermanence. I also had spent time on the Hopi and Navajo reservations with my school and family.
GAG: What was your early work like?
TF: I’ve always considered myself a painter and my work has always been about exploring ways to paint without paint. I responded to artists who work in multi-media: Jonathan Borofsky, Jessica Stockholder, Judy Pfaff… My early work was installation and kinetic sculpture – colored water with timers and pumps as if they were breathing - very much related to biology. And paintings with poured paint like frozen water fountains.
GAG: It took you a long time but eventually you came back to weaving.
TF: Yes, I did. I’ve always been interested in textiles. I went to India and spent six months there; I lived in Mexico one summer when I was in high school learned to weave. But I wanted to be an artist. I was afraid that if I made textiles I would be pigeonholed as a craft artist. And I was much more interested in earthworks and conceptual art, in content. At that time weavings were mainly natural colors made with natural fibers, so I avoided it for years.
GAG: What changed?
TF: In 2012 I visited the Fundacion Miro in Barcelona and saw this big hairy tapestry and I decided that I had to find a way to weave! I came back to the Bay and took a weaving course at CCA to see what would happen and I absolutely fell for it. Coming from a fine arts background, as opposed to craft which I didn’t know a lot about, I wanted to make big hairy woven paintings, to use the loom as a tool to capture my paintings. 
GAG: What brought to the Bay Area?
TF: I was at UC Santa Barbara and my art world was LA, but I got married and my husband got a job offer so we moved here. I wasn’t too happy about it at first, but I think it is a good place to have a sane life and I am not sure I would have found weaving otherwise. I miss Southern California.
 
GAG: Can you see yourself living somewhere else?
TF: I have great friends and support here. If I moved, it would be to somewhere where there wasn’t a lot of climate action. But I think the East Bay is a good place for me and I feel like after a while I became allergic to LA. The Bay offers a kind of refuge. Maybe I wouldn’t be having success if I lived in LA or New York. I think that being in the Bay Area I have been able to find the work I needed to make, so I think I am where I need to be.
GAG: Your weaving is so physical - more than tactile, they are lumpy and smooth and hairy and dense and then fragile, so they look like they’re going to fall apart.
TF: I’m really interested in the body, in breath and in the nervous system and the brain. So actually for me, while they are not figurative or representational, they are very much about the body. They have orifices, hairiness and veins and skin. They’re also about architecture – I was very inspired by stain glass windows in cathedrals, the way light comes through the darkness or dense walls.
GAG: I don’t think of you as a weaver.
TF: I’m an artist and I weave.  I’m not a tapestry maker, I’m a mixed-media artist.
GAG: How do you see your work evolving?
TF: Well, I’m planning on making 3-D work – I want to make work that goes in the middle of the room. 
GAG: What is your process? Do you make studies for your work? 
TF: I design and draw all my work on an Ipad now. I used to do them by hand, collaging and cutting things out. It was much more physical, but it wasn’t very practical, and it would take forever. Now I design them on the Ipad and it’s great. If I don’t like a certain section, I can work it out. The loom is so unforgiving that you can’t go back but on the Ipad I can grid it out.
GAG: You determine the size and proportion of each work beforehand? They seem so gestural and even spontaneous.
TF: Yes, they are completely mapped out. I can make some changes, for example in texture or open spaces, but they are mostly worked out carefully in advance.
 
GAG: I have to ask, do you have favorite colors?
TF: I love the neon colors, but no, I like every color. I learned in a quilting class years ago that the way to make a strong quilt is to put the dirty next to the clean or bright, so I do this kind of dirty dazzle thing where part of it is dirty and then you have something dazzling shining through, neon colors or white or some surprise. 
GAG: I’m curious about your use of language. For example, you incorporate the title into each work, for example, “In/Hale/Ex” or “Thank You Aneurysm.” How personal are these references?
TF: Actually, they are very personal. They are very much about my own relationship with what I see and hear in the world, my own anxieties. “In/Hale/Ex” is about breathing as the antidote to anxiety. “Thank You Aneurysm” is about living with uncertainty. They’re suggestions or open narratives.
GAG: Your work is visceral, tactile, aggressive, frail – they are a lot of different things. And then there is this sense of revealing, of content. Not like Ab-Ex where it’s about gesture and emotion. The more time you spend with them it becomes clear you are conveying a message.
TF: Yes, it’s almost like uncovering or excavating, I want the thought to be ambiguous and not immediately apparent. I don’t want to tell too much or lecture people, I suggest a thought and let the viewer craft their own stories. I also want to disrupt abstraction. I don’t want to be pigeonholed as an abstract artist. 
GAG: Do you consider yourself a successful artist? What do you consider success at this point in your life or career?
TF: Yes, if I compare myself to everything around me. But part of the human condition is that there is never enough, but I feel that I am having success right now. I’ve created a lifestyle where I have time and space to work. I love what I am doing, and I have opportunities to show and I’ve been selling. I feel very grateful. I feel like I am walking forward, one foot in front of the other. If you had asked me that 20 years ago, I don’t think I would have answered it the same way, but I feel that now that it is important to admit when things are coming your way, to feel grateful, because it is not really fair to other people to deny it, to be falsely humble.  I love when my friends share good news or their successes with me.
 

Intro

Terri Friedman in her studio, 2021. 

Terri Friedman makes intricate and tactile weavings, some of which will be included in our exhibition Shapeshifters, opening October 28th. We chatted with her ahead of the show, to learn about her background in sculpture, how she came to work with textiles, and her love of neon colors.

Text 1

Terri Friedman, Pause, 2020. Wool, cotton, acrylic, metallic, hemp, chenille fibers, 132 x 50 inches.

George Adams Gallery:   Tell us a little about how you grew up.

Terri Friedman:   I was born in Denver. My dad was a grocer, and my mom was an interior designer. We spent a lot of time in the mountains. My grandmother knitted since she was 5 years old - she was a yarn hoarder – she had a huge room in her basement filled with yarn. This was in the ‘60s and ‘70s and there were a lot of neon colors. I would visit and we would knit together.

GAG:   Were you thinking about becoming an artist?

TF:   Mostly about getting out of Denver. I wanted to be in a big city, and I wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t have the courage. I always loved to draw, and it was in high school that I first thought I could be an actual artist. I went to the RISD summer program, but I was still an academic and too nervous to go to art school, so I thought I’d go to Brown and take classes at RISD. At Brown my dad convinced me to major in pre-law but that didn’t last very long. I ended up taking a year off and interned for Charles Simonds in New York. He was preparing for his show at the Guggenheim.

GAG:   Why Charles Simonds? I don’t see the connection.

TF:   If you saw my early work, it would make sense. I was really interested in temporality and impermanence. I also had spent time on the Hopi and Navajo reservations with my school and family.

GAG:   What was your early work like?

TF:   I’ve always considered myself a painter and my work has always been about exploring ways to paint without paint. I responded to artists who work in multi-media: Jonathan Borofsky, Jessica Stockholder, Judy Pfaff… My early work was installation and kinetic sculpture – colored water with timers and pumps as if they were breathing - very much related to biology. And paintings with poured paint like frozen water fountains.

“I’m really interested in the body, in breath and in the nervous system and the brain. So actually for me, while they are not figurative or representational, they are very much about the body. They have orifices, hairiness and veins and skin.”

GAG:   It took you a long time but eventually you came back to weaving.

TF:   Yes, I did. I’ve always been interested in textiles. I went to India and spent six months there; I lived in Mexico one summer when I was in high school and learned to weave. But I wanted to be an artist. I was afraid that if I made textiles I would be pigeonholed as a craft artist. And I was much more interested in earthworks and conceptual art, in content. At that time weavings were mainly natural colors made with natural fibers, so I avoided it for years.

GAG:   What changed?

TF:   In 2012 I visited the Fundacion Miro in Barcelona and saw this big hairy tapestry and I decided that I had to find a way to weave! I came back to the Bay and took a weaving course at CCA to see what would happen and I absolutely fell for it. Coming from a fine arts background, as opposed to craft which I didn’t know a lot about, I wanted to make big hairy woven paintings, to use the loom as a tool to capture my paintings. 

GAG:   What brought you to the Bay Area?

TF:   I was at UC Santa Barbara and my art world was LA, but I got married and my husband got a job offer so we moved here. I wasn’t too happy about it at first, but I think it is a good place to have a sane life and I am not sure I would have found weaving otherwise. I miss Southern California.

GAG:   Can you see yourself living somewhere else?

TF:   I have great friends and support here. If I moved, it would be to somewhere where there wasn’t a lot of climate action. But I think the East Bay is a good place for me and I feel like after a while I became allergic to LA. The Bay offers a kind of refuge. Maybe I wouldn’t be having success if I lived in LA or New York. I think that being in the Bay Area I have been able to find the work I needed to make, so I think I am where I need to be.

Text 3

Terri Friedman in her studio, 2021.

GAG:   Your weaving is so physical - more than tactile, they are lumpy and smooth and hairy and dense and then fragile, so they look like they’re going to fall apart.

TF:   I’m really interested in the body, in breath and in the nervous system and the brain. So actually for me, while they are not figurative or representational, they are very much about the body. They have orifices, hairiness and veins and skin. They’re also about architecture – I was very inspired by stain glass windows in cathedrals, the way light comes through the darkness or dense walls.

GAG:   I don’t think of you as a weaver.

TF:   I’m an artist and I weave.  I’m not a tapestry maker, I’m a mixed-media artist.

GAG:   How do you see your work evolving?

TF:   Well, I’m planning on making 3-D work – I want to make work that goes in the middle of the room. 

GAG:   What is your process? Do you make studies for your work? 

TF:   I design and draw all my work on an Ipad now. I used to do them by hand, collaging and cutting things out. It was much more physical, but it wasn’t very practical, and it would take forever. Now I design them on the Ipad and it’s great. If I don’t like a certain section, I can work it out. The loom is so unforgiving that you can’t go back but on the Ipad I can grid it out.

Text 4

Terri Friedman, IN/HALE/EX, 2019. Wool, cotton, acrylic, metallic, hemp, chenille fibers, 130 x 75 inches.

GAG:   I have to ask, do you have favorite colors?

TF:   I love the neon colors, but no, I like every color. I learned in a quilting class years ago that the way to make a strong quilt is to put the dirty next to the clean or bright, so I do this kind of dirty dazzle thing where part of it is dirty and then you have something dazzling shining through, neon colors or white or some surprise. 

GAG:   I’m curious about your use of language. For example, you incorporate the title into each work, for example, “In/Hale/Ex” or “Thank You Aneurysm.” How personal are these references?

TF:   Actually, they are very personal. They are very much about my own relationship with what I see and hear in the world, my own anxieties. “In/Hale/Ex” is about breathing as the antidote to anxiety. “Thank You Aneurysm” is about living with uncertainty. They’re suggestions or open narratives.

GAG:   You determine the size and proportion of each work beforehand? They seem so gestural and even spontaneous.

TF:   Yes, they are completely mapped out. I can make some changes, for example in texture or open spaces, but they are mostly worked out carefully in advance.

GAG:   Your work is visceral, tactile, aggressive, frail – they are a lot of different things. And then there is this sense of revealing, of content. Not like Ab-Ex where it’s about gesture and emotion. The more time you spend with them it becomes clear you are conveying a message.

TF:   Yes, it’s almost like uncovering or excavating, I want the thought to be ambiguous and not immediately apparent. I don’t want to tell too much or lecture people, I suggest a thought and let the viewer craft their own stories. I also want to disrupt abstraction. I don’t want to be pigeonholed as an abstract artist. 

GAG:   Do you consider yourself a successful artist? What do you consider success at this point in your life or career?

TF:   Yes, if I compare myself to everything around me. But part of the human condition is that there is never enough, but I feel that I am having success right now. I’ve created a lifestyle where I have time and space to work. I love what I am doing, and I have opportunities to show and I’ve been selling. I feel very grateful. I feel like I am walking forward, one foot in front of the other. If you had asked me that 20 years ago, I don’t think I would have answered it the same way, but I feel that now that it is important to admit when things are coming your way, to feel grateful, because it is not really fair to other people to deny it, to be falsely humble.  I love when my friends share good news or their successes with me.