North Shore artist Yetti Frenkel is one of more than 40 sculptors whose work is on display at the tenth annual Flying Horse Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit on the campus of Pingree School in South Hamilton from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30.
Her piece, “Cycles,” is from a series of whimsical and surrealistic depictions of women and cats.
Frenkel is drawn to the small moments of drama in daily life: the lonely child, the weary commuter, the hopeful gambler. Additionally, Frenkel is a painter, mosaic artist, art teacher, and book illustrator, as well as a sculptor. To date, she has painted murals for nine public libraries in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Now a resident of Newburyport, she grew up in Lynn and earned her BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
What is your Jewish background?
My father was Jewish, rescued by the Quakers who funded a Kinder Transport to get him out of Austria before the Nazis took over. His parents were not so lucky and died in Auschwitz. My mother was German and stayed in Berlin during the war. She was the bureau chief for an East German newspaper and was covering the War Crimes Trials in Nuremberg when she met my father. He was working as an interpreter, and from what they told me they knew they would get married within an hour of meeting each other.
This story was both romantic and very sad; my mother’s father had been affected by mustard gas during the First World War and apparently never recovered, and my own grandparents had been killed for being members of a persecuted minority group. I think that knowing this history and having both a German mother and a Jewish father whose families had both suffered during the war made me see suffering as a human condition, not limited in scope or scale to one particular group. It may have made me more empathetic, but it also made me a lifelong outsider.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist? Were you encouraged by your family? Discouraged?
I originally wanted to be a writer. When I was young, I filled notebooks with stories. Words came easily and seemed to flow from my pen. Something changed in adolescence and I found drawing easier. My second love, however, was not art but animals, and I really wanted to become an animal trainer, specifically working with horses. My parents were skeptical of this, both because horses are dangerous and because they doubted I could make a decent living. They encouraged me to be an artist, which seems really strange in hindsight, given that artists are the least financially secure people on the planet except for a minor few superstars, but perhaps they were thinking of the respect that artists were given in Europe. In any case, I went to art school and never looked back.
The Flying Horse Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit is open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours through Nov. 30. Visit pingree.org/sculpture-show.