Creating melancholic, puppet-like characters through AI tools, Beth Frey challenges conventional representations of gender in dreamscapes that are both nostalgic and contemporary.
The AI-generated dreamscapes feature interactions between humans and sentient muppets; characters possessing human traits, albeit with exaggerated, distorted, and, at times, animal-like features. By constructing worlds in which these characters can exist beyond gendered expectations, Frey confronts our conventional representations of gender using the grotesque to liberate the female body from serving the male gaze.
Frey’s prompts draw from wide-ranging cultural and historical influences, traversing different time periods, art forms and materials. By mashing high art, such as the Baroque, with pop culture references like comic strip character Charlie Brown, Frey creates off-beat scenes that juxtapose the humorous and deep with the complex and absurd.
I’ve always dreamed of realising a subversive, psychotic children’s show, and with this photorealistic tool, I was able to create absurd visuals to go with my vision.
I pull a lot from old films, both popular and foreign auteur cinema. I think in that regard, John Waters is an influence. His campy characters are sort of hyperreal, and I am a fan of low-budget aesthetics in make-up and props. It should be no surprise that the Muppet Show is an influence, even if I’m not directly referencing it. This was probably the only television show we were allowed to watch as kids and I’ve always been sort of fascinated by how the puppets interact with the glamorous stars of its era.
Another favourite of mine is Isabella Rossellini’s web series Green Porno, where she dresses up in homemade costumes to demonstrate the reproductive tendencies of various animals. The videos are funny and shocking and educational, and I appreciate how Rossellini doesn’t take herself too seriously and crosses over into the absurd.
Beth Frey is a Canadian artist who works with a variety of media, including drawing, painting, video, and sculpture. Through her wry, absurdist sense of humour, Frey playfully draws out contradictions in her subject matter, be it gender, the body, social media, mental health, or spirituality, often integrating representations of herself into her chromatic cartoon-like world.
Frey has an MFA in Painting and Drawing from Concordia University and a BFA from the University of Victoria. She has exhibited her work in several solo and group shows across Canada, Mexico and the US. Frey currently divides her time between Montreal and Mexico City.