“There’s the old adage,” said former Scottsdale resident Gregory Fratt. “An artist doesn’t really become famous until after they die.”
Since the passing of his mother – acclaimed Scottsdale artist Dorothy Fratt – in 2017, Gregory has traveled far and wide with her artwork.
He has made it his mission to not only keep the art and memory of his mother alive, but to also ensure she receives “the recognition she deserves” here in their own hometown.
Previously, Gregory traveled to Museum Art.Plus, a museum devoted to exhibitions of contemporary art in Donaueschingen, Germany, where the largest collection of works by Dorothy in the Biedermann Collection ran from Feb. 18, 2018 until January 2019.
And on March 14, Gregory, who currently lives in Louisiana, will stop in Scottsdale for the “Color-Form-Line” exhibition’s opening reception at The Gallery at Mountain Shadows.
The exhibition, which runs through April 30, features the works of John Armstrong, a master printer, fine art framer, artist and former visual art manager of Scottsdale Center for the Arts; Dorothy Fratt, an abstract painter of the western landscape who specializes in color theory and is known for her expressive use of color; and Richard Hogan, New Mexico-based abstract painter whose artwork is composed solely of linear strokes.
The Gallery curator and owner of Reyes Contemporary Art, John A. Reyes, said the exhibition surveys the work of the three artists and contrasts “their diverse processes of developing nonobjective work.”
“The moment the idea of the exhibition came together was when I was looking at a John Armstrong work on metal and a Dorothy Fratt painting in the same room,” Reyes said. “It was easy to see the similarity in the pieces but at the same time, it’s apparent that each artist starts their work through different processes.”
He said once the title “Color-Form-Line” was established, he needed a third artist who used lines as his or her central creative process. Hogan was then added.
Seven of Dorothy’s pieces will be on display and available for purchase at the Mountain Shadows exhibition.
“This is a great time to collect Dorothy Fratt’s pieces as there isn’t that much of her work in the public,” Reyes said. “So this is an exclusive opportunity to appreciate, view and even purchase some of the best works from extremely talented artists while it’s in the neighborhood.”
Following the Mountain Shadows exhibition, Gregory will travel to Artrageous at the Palm Springs Art Museum on March 18, to which he donated one of Dorothy’s lithograph pieces, “Veronica’s Veil,” painted in 1977.
Museum hopping is nothing new to Gregory.
Growing up, he was dragged through every major museum in the United States.
“Of course, we didn’t appreciate it at the time, but the art education we received was incredible,” he said. “Now we look back on it with great appreciation.”
He also remembers the mornings before he would head off to school; Dorothy would sit in the kitchen with her cup of coffee, sketching away.
“She’d always feed us breakfast, and she would get to painting,” Gregory recalled.
Dorothy lived for almost 40 years in a house perched on the east side of Camelback Mountain. The home was designed by architect and former student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Yaeger. A studio was later built on the property.
From within that home, Dorothy offered private instruction in painting and color theory from 1958 to 1972.
“She always said that she produced more professional artists and painters than ASU did from her teaching,” Gregory said.
Born in Washington D.C. in 1923, Dorothy started drawing at a young age.
At 9, she drew live nude figures – a class in which her parents enrolled her.
She held her first solo exhibition in 1946 at the age of 23 at the Washington D.C. City Library.
Following that exhibition, her work was shown at museums throughout Arizona, including the Tucson Art Center and the Phoenix Art Museum in 1964, and the Riva Yares Gallery in Scottsdale in 1965, ’66, ’82, ’84, ’87 and ’89, among other galleries nationwide.
The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts also held a 10-year retrospective collection called “Dorothy Fratt: 1970-1980” in 1980.
Dorothy received many awards and accolades, including the Arizona Governor’s Artist of the Year Award in 2000.
Toward the end of her life, Gregory said she stopped painting because she said she was “tired of inventing.”
“She was always exploring and inventing; her artwork was always changing and growing,” he said.
While Dorothy had a successful career and was awarded for her work throughout her life – including being dubbed “the First Lady of Art in Arizona” by “Phoenix Magazine” in 1976 – Gregory believes more can be done to recognize her artwork and impact.
“She certainly made a huge contribution and now it’s great it’s getting this international recognition,” he said. “But it’s high time that Phoenix art museum does another show for my mom – and the Scottsdale Center for the [Performing] Arts. I think it’s high time that they do something for my mom.”
“We are hoping that Fratt will exhibit at either of the two major art institutions in the Valley who do not already have her work in their public collections,” Reyes said. “This would be a major milestone for Ms. Fratt and her family.”
Both Gregory and Reyes said Dorothy is underappreciated as an artist in Scottsdale.
“If you look at the numbers, so many female artists are underrepresented in galleries and undervalued in price,” Reyes said. “Dorothy Fratt unfortunately falls into that category.”
According to the Washington, D.C.-based National Museum of Women in the Arts, women constitute 51 percent of contemporary visual artists, but between 2007 and 2013, only 27 percent of 590 major exhibitions held by institutions across the United States were devoted to female artists.
Further, women working across arts professions make around $20,000 less per year than their male counterparts.
One example of the male-centric arts world is found within Riva Yares’ 2017 book, “The Art Dealer.”
“The Art Dealer” delves into the life of Yares, who founded Riva Yares Gallery in 1964, including her relationships with artists she has worked with.
Much to Gregory’s surprise, Dorothy was the only female artist mentioned in the entire book.
“It was a very male-dominated world, and mom is the only woman artist in that entire book, which I find very interesting,” he said.
Reyes is hopeful, though, that Dorothy will receive the recognition she deserves, moving forward.
“There are a few U.S.-based shows in the works for Ms. Fratt, so her reputation and recognition as an artist will only increase in time,” he said.
One museum working to emphasize women artists is Tate Britain, an art museum in London.
In April, Tate Britain will temporarily transform its Sixty Years gallery to display only female artists’ work. The exhibition will be available for viewing for at least one year, and it will feature around 60 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings and video works by 30 different artists.
“This has been a big theme for museums,” Gregory said.
When Gregory visits the “Color-Form-Line” exhibition, he hopes to share with attendees stories about Dorothy, as well as stories behind her artwork.
What he enjoys about his mom’s artwork is “her knowledge and sense of color and a lot of playfulness. There was a lot of playfulness in her and her work,” he said.