As an environmentally conscious artist, Jill Friedberg uses recycled materials such as old shoeboxes and clothing in her work. She even recycles her old paints and adds natural components like feathers and snakeskin to her canvases. 

The Scottsdale artist’s upcoming show at the nonprofit Herberger Theater Center Art Gallery, “Fantasy for a Noble Universe,” features a combination of photographic images with acrylic paint and repurposed materials. Her goal is to share her fantasy of nature in an environmentally conscious world. 

“Nature was always very important to me growing up,” Friedberg said. “I feel that animals feel differently than we do, so it really bothers me when they endure pains that are caused by us. For example, I was reading about how plastic continues to affect the ocean and fish, and it really upset me.”  

Friedberg uses photographs from her frequent world travel in much of her artwork. She then adds surreal elements to the photos on canvas. Her hope is that audiences will experience her concern for the environment and a sense of wonder from her artwork.  

“I collect a lot of images knowing that they’re meaningful to me,” Friedberg said. “Then I print them on canvas and then I work in my painting and repurposed materials to create the narrative.”

“Crossing,” one of the works in the exhibit, is made up of a photomontage and acrylic paint on a rice paper canvas. It was painted this year and it features a man and his son attempting to cross a river. It started with a photo Friedberg took of the man and his son. She then she added colors, a dynamic background and fantastic elements to create a story.  

Friedberg developed a passion for art as a child growing up in Evanston, Illinois, when her mother would let her create what she called sculptural cakes. Friedberg remembers decorating them in green frosting and making a mess in the kitchen, but it was the beginning of a lifelong passion. 

She went to Northwestern University for undergraduate studies and then graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a master’s degree. Friedberg has been featured in several group and solo exhibits since the 1980s.  

Herberger Theater Center Development and Marketing Director Laurene Austin is excited to have a full show featuring Friedberg. Friedberg showcased some of her work in the center and curated the show “Visual Feasting” earlier this year. For this show, Friedberg will curate her own exhibit.   

The Herberger Theater Center spotlights all genres of art, from dance to music. It opened its gallery in 2002 to highlight non-performing artists. Those who exhibit their work in the space are usually selected through a call for artists. But Friedberg was asked to hold a solo exhibition.

“Jill’s work is very intriguing, blending current topics with fantasy,” Austin said. “I think audiences will find Jill’s work fascinating and inspiring. The theme, vivid colors and creativity will draw them into the beautiful work.” 

The exhibit opens at the Herberger Theater Center on Dec. 7 and goes through Jan. 1, 2019. For more information, go to herbergertheater.org. JN

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