At the end of 2017, A.J. Fries, ‘95, discussed with his studio partner, Ani Hoover, the idea of creating a piece of art every day for an entire year. And then he did it. Throughout 2018, he created 365 unique oil paintings, each on 4-by-6-inch linen panels.
The complete collection, which captures everything from various foods to cars, composes the exhibit AJF365 now on display at the Main Street Gallery in Buffalo.
“Coming up with the ideas sometimes took longer than the paintings themselves,” Fries said. “Often I didn’t know what I would be painting until I was on the canvas or walking around my kitchen before heading to the studio.”
While the challenge was ambitious, intense dedication to his painting is nothing new to Fries, who earned his bachelor of fine arts from Buffalo State in 1995 and has been working as a professional artist since 1992.
“I treat being an artist like any other job, just with a lot more freedom,” Fries said. “Usually, I take the weekends off or a free day here and there. For this project, I didn’t allow myself to take any time off.”
Scott Propeack, associate director of the Buffalo State’s Burchfield Penney Art Center, calls Fries “unquestionably one of Western New York’s most serious, developed, and dedicated artists.”
Along with the Burchfield Penney, Fries has exhibited at Buffalo Arts Studio, Hallwalls, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Big Orbit Gallery, among other venues. He also is a founding member of Trans Empire Canal Corporation (TECC), a Buffalo-based collective responsible for the Burchfield Penney’s multiyear project Cultural Commodities: As Exhibition in Four Phases, informally referred to as the “art barge.” Fries was designated as one of the Burchfield Penney’s first “Living Legacy” artists in 2012.
At the beginning of the 365-day challenge, when the year of blank canvases loomed ahead, Fries didn’t announce his intentions publicly. He wanted to make sure he could complete it. And despite some days of uncertainty through the process, he persevered.
“People say it’s a great accomplishment; I just have a feeling of relief,” Fries said with a laugh.
Now the public has the chance to see the paintings with the option of purchasing them at the gallery. Each one is selling for $125, which is below Fries’ normal asking price.
“I wanted to make it feasible for just about anyone interested in having an oil painting be able to get one.”
AJF365 opened January 5 and continues through Sunday, January 13, at the gallery located at 515 Main Street. For more information, call (716) 578-1702 or visit the gallery’s Facebook page. To see the paintings, visit Fries’ website.
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