FRIDA WILLIS FROM GNOSJÖ: A CELEBRATED ARTIST IN CALIFORNIA’S ART MECCA

Interview by Karl Mettinger

I know Frida from our Swedish services in Los Altos, where she is helping coordinating children’s activities. “I have a vision to work with Swedish children and also to bring Swedish Children’s culture to Swedish and perhaps American children in Silicon Valley,” says Frida. “My two daughters Ophelia (18) and Madison (16) went to school in San Jose, where we have lived 10 years. I used to come to their school every week and teach painting both oil and aquarelle.” Her artwork for children is based on Astrid Lindgren and Elsa Beskow fairytales. They are on permanent display for the last 10 years in the Brunk Children’s Museum Chicago.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE SWEDISH CHURCH IN SAN FRANCISCO?

In about 2008 Yvonne Lundgren, the previous Church Assistant, had to leave abruptly because of visa trouble and she suggested to our priest Staffan Simonson, that I took over. He agreed and I worked as his assistant in SF for three years. He was based in L.A. and came up once a month. I even followed him around on his regular home visits.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR LIFE IN SWEDEN

I was born in Gnosjö in Småland. My mother was very artistic, and I followed her unfulfilled dreams, even if arts was nothing that was taken seriously and not even talked a lot about in my little village of 3000. When I was 15, we moved to Brὄsarp, an even smaller place close to Ystad. After finishing school, I pursued an education in design and got a job as designer at Hansa in Malmὄ, which became NK Department store. I then became visual designer for all departments at NK in Stockholm, the flagship Department store of Sweden. Later I was offered the position as Chief Designer at H&M, also in Stockholm.

However, I had completed an education with Bo Hedberg’s Tourist School to become a Tourist Agent. When Service Air called and offered me a job to work as a Ground Floor agent at Arlanda Airport, servicing several different airlines, I accepted and soon advanced to a supervisor position. A very challenging job with challenging work hours.

HOW DID YOU END UP IN SILICON VALLEY?

I moved to Bay Area around 2003, got married and got two beautiful daughters both now teenagers. I worked in sales but the last ten years I have worked as Showroom Sales Manager at Living Green Design, a design shop with plants, plantscapes for interior/exterior designs in San Francisco Design District.

HOW DID YOU FIND TIME TO CREATE ART?

As the girls grew up, I started to paint late at night and the canvases started to pile up in the garage. I was first represented by Arts Liaison and the Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco. Some of my art was also exhibited in wine taste rooms and exclusive cafeterias. Everything seemed to come to a stop when the pandemic arrived in late 2019.

NOTHING COULD STOP FRIDA WILLIS OR FRIDA KAHLU, I GUESS?

As Providence had planned it, but also thanks to an act of faith the fortune was soon to change. Together with a friend of mine I was visiting Carmel just South of Monterrey. This city with 3000 inhabitants, is a Mecca for artists, film stars and celebrities like Jack London, Doris Day, and Clint Eastwood, who was mayor in the 1980’s. On the spur of the moment, we decided to stop by the American Art Gallery and soon the gallery owner showed up an asked if I was an artist. I showed him some images of my art and then we left. A few days later he called and offered to exhibit 40 paintings and my art has now been on permanent display for more than two years, and they order more as soon as they sell. I have had to turn my garden room into a permanent art studio!

Here are links to her exhibition. Frida Willis - American Art Gallery (americanartgalleries.com)

Watching her artwork on video this morning for the first time I added my personal comment about my transforming experience:

"Congratulations! The music on the videos on Facebook makes the ART come alive and one becomes part of the cosmic dance of creation. Thanks, Frida, for sharing and inviting us all to listen to the voice of our creator and surrender HERE & NOW!!!"