A prototype for a glass-art installation dangles near a window in Laurie Frick’s Austin studio. The artist used it to plan out spacing for the 3,000 colored-glass discs suspended as part of her recent installation at SITE Gallery Houston. Each piece represented data gathered about musical genres streamed online. The theme for this show was “synaptic,” and Frick says the concept came from wondering: “What would it look like to step inside your brain while listening to music?”
This ability to translate complex numerical data into awe-inspiring art is the hallmark of Frick’s work. A former engineer, she left the tech sector to pursue fine art. While studying painting, Frick became convinced she could use the many data points of our lives to create a new type of portrait. “I began measuring my time, but I then learned you can measure your sleep,” recalls the artist, who purchased an EEG monitor to track her slumber. “The patterns were beautiful and compelling.” And so, Frick took the information she collected and translated it into her first data-based art piece.
Now represented by Blue Print Gallery, Frick has worked in a variety of media. They almost always have a handmade quality to contrast the cold, hard metrics that inspire her work: collage, watercolor, leather, garment-dyed felt and, most recently, kiln-fired, fused glass. Her process of translating data varies, sometimes using numbers in a straightforward fashion like a tree diagram. Other times, her approach is more creative. For a piece entitled Felt Personality, she sorted answers from a dating site questionnaire into categories based on a personality assessment, color-coding the results in felt. “A section of the final grid falls apart into colorful chaos, representing the potential for a breakup,” she describes.
In her studio, it’s easy to see how the artist became excited to work with glass. Vibrant sheets of it cover her work surfaces. “You can fire pieces of glass together and they mix almost like paint,” she explains. “Plus, it never fades. The color is embedded in the chemistry.” Frick mastered cutting glass sheets after many hours exploring the medium during the pandemic lockdown. She has since ventured into more elaborate mosaics, which she plots out as digital drawings first.
When pressed about her penchant for pursuing technically demanding mediums, Frick says it’s all about the challenge.