Frieda Howling has lived her life in ways that most of us can only imagine. Born in Munich, Germany, she immigrated to the US in 1934. Newly settled in New York as a young teen, Howling quickly learned English, obtaining her Fine Arts Degree at Douglas College (now Rutgers University). She was a fashion model, she is a mother of two, and in the early 1960s, she taught at Beirut College For Women in Lebanon (now the Lebanese American University). Ten years after returning to the US she went back to Beirut to complete her book, The Development of Contemporary Art in Lebanon, 1930-1975, a seminal work that was published by the Lebanese American University Press in 2005.
As an artist, it is easy to see a distinct and profound passion for knowledge and discovery in her paintings. She has her own unique way of opening her heart and mind, soaking up all that life has to offer and converting her thoughts and feelings into stirring colors and deep symbolism. A true thinking and feeling artist, Howling's work never disappoints us with its mysteries and treasures – and as her life changes, so does her art as she moves back and forth between pure, non-representational abstraction to expressive, oft times Surreal narratives.
When viewing Nautical Twilight (1970s) you might think of artists like Milton Avery who too reduced the essence of a scene to its core while maintaining a unique and refreshing sense of reality. And like Georgia O’Keeffe, Howling can find the lyrical and the sensual in shapes and forms in paintings like Sea Rock (1971). Still, there is a darkness in all spirits as the work Rondalay (1971) would attest. There is a weight, a heaviness to the mood here that curves back onto itself like a recurring pain or problem.
Then there is Love Nest (2015), a poem, a stirring narrative to the beauty of nature and the joys of living. It identifies a path of desire as a basic trait that we all need to find happiness. Love Nest asserts that we can achieve peace and tranquility within all that nature can provide – a state ofharmony and balance – and sharing this sensation with a partner makes it even more intense and enlightening.
By D. Dominick Lombardi