Richard Fryberger: The Occasional PainterRichard Fryberger has been creating art for more than four decades, but he has squeezed it into a lifetime — he’s 66 — filled with career, family, community service, travel adventures, and a dazzling variety of other hobbies and interests.
By: Marty Sozansky, For the Budgeteer News
Richard Fryberger of Duluth recently declared himself “The Occasional Painter.” He’s been creating art for more than four decades, but he has squeezed it into a lifetime — he’s 66 — filled with career, family, community service, travel adventures, and a dazzling variety of other hobbies and interests.
Through it all, though, he’s painted — occasionally — and now 20 of his oils and acrylics have been assembled for exhibition at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth, 835 West College Street, through May.
The Fryberger name is well-known in Duluth, though it’s rarely been associated with art, except through philanthropy. In 1893, Richard’s grandfather Herschel B. Fryberger founded the law firm that still includes the family name, and his son, Richard’s father, continued to build the practice.
Richard enjoyed the privileges of growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s in one of Duluth’s well-known families, and remembers that his father was not opposed to his interest in art. But, he notes, “My father said my art would be a great hobby, but there was an expectation in that culture that I would pursue a career in business or law.”
Meanwhile, he doodled. He exchanged doodles with his friend in class, and doodled some more. Starting in ninth grade, Fryberger attended The Taft School in Watertown, Conn., a boys’ preparatory school, where he took several painting classes. He still remembers his art teacher and credits that class with helping him get started in painting. “Our teacher understood boys,” he says. “He taught us several “technical” things, such as how to stretch a canvas and how different brushes have different effects, but then he just let us paint.”
Fryberger’s interest in painting continued as he attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., where he majored in Art History and reveled in studying the great Impressionist painters.
The Navy, marriage to Ann, a return to Duluth, the birth of daughter Laura, and a long career in banking followed. But many of the things he saw and experienced, whether in Duluth, away at school, in Asia or California or somewhere else, became the subjects of his paintings.
Sometimes he has worked from photos, sometimes from memory, and other times from his own imagination.
One painting in the exhibit, “Public Works,” shows two huge trucks that Fryberger spied in 1966 in what is now Canal Park. The wide brushstrokes evoke both the power and toughness of the behemoths. Several of Fryberger’s paintings use wide brushstrokes that appear to be quickly applied, and the resultant art pulses with energy.
It’s clear the artist is bent on capturing a single moment in time, committing it quickly to the canvas, and then moving on. Perhaps the best example is “12 to 1 — A Long Night,” an oil painted in 1967 depicting a hockey game between Dartmouth and Cornell, that Fryberger said he painted in five minutes. “I like to create atmosphere,” he says. “And of course, from a distance, less is more.”
A 2003 painting titled “Ganges Dhou” is different: a softer background and meticulously refined lines depict two lone boats (dhous) in the water. Other paintings exhibit a combination of two techniques — broad brushstrokes and softer application of oil or acrylic on the same canvas. There’s even a pen and ink drawing, “Mt. Shasta Hay Barn” that Fryberger created in 1971.
For most of his art, there’s a story — a time and place etched in memory and captured on canvas.
Painting aside, Richard Fryberger isn’t a man with a single dimension. The Occasional Painter is well-known in the Twin Ports as a sort of Renaissance Man, an engaging and dynamic person who has varied interests and who has served his community in many ways over the years.
Currently, he chairs the Board of Directors of Northern Communities Land Trust, now One Roof Community Housing since its merger with Neighborhood Housing Services. In the past, other local nonprofits such as the Duluth Art Institute, Polinsky Rehabilitation Center, and the Nat G. Polinsky Foundation have benefited from his leadership.
And then there are the other personal interests and hobbies he’s pursued: owning a cabin led to the study of edible plants and native medicines, for example. He’s also studied homeopathy and several practices related to massage, including Ortho-Bionomy, which he has practiced professionally.
But none of these hobbies has sustained Fryberger like painting. Not even fly fishing, which he lists as his other true passion. “But fly fishing is
seasonal,” he points out.
“I can always paint in the cellar.”
Sozansky is a writer and editor living in Duluth.
IF YOU GO
“The Occasional Painter,” an exhibition of Richard Fryberger’s lifetime of painting, hangs in the sanctuary at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth (UUCD), 835 W. College Street, Duluth, through May. The exhibit may be viewed daily when there is no other activity in the sanctuary.
WHAT: An opening reception for Richard Fryberger’s paintings, “The Occasional Painter”
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, May 5, 2013
WHERE: UUCD, 835 W. College Street, Duluth
HOW: Free and open to the public