Espi Frazier

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Baltimore Artist Espi Frazier.
Baltimore Artist Espi Frazier.


A native of Chicago, Frazier completed a BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a MFA at the Maryland Institute of College of Art. She has resided in Baltimore for the past twenty years. In addition to her art she has developed a "wood graphics” process over 25 years ago that uses colored inks on relief wood carvings. She also works with mixed media (mosaic tiles, glass, beads and copper nails) in her work. Frazier attributes artist Charles White as a strong inspiration of her work. "His understanding of light, shadow, and depth of emotion was powerful and showed me the importance of mastering the ability to draw well all the time," says Frazier.

Artist Statement

Inspired by African, Caribbean, Egyptian, and Japanese Art, Frazier’s creative themes include both the female as goddess/life/giver and the integral beauty of African people. Frazier’s media is mainly illustration and some wood carving. Her work speaks to the universal quest to understand who people are beyond race, age, and gender.

Open Studio Tour

Espi Frazier Middle school Art Instructor at Friends Middle School of and Baltimore (19 years). Also part time instructor: with Creative Alliance Elevate 8. Mannequins Guild Award recipient for 1970. Phillip Morris Fellowship 1993-1995 Maryland Institute College of Art. Grants include: Chicago Office of Fine Arts 1990, 1992, 1998. Member of (BAG) A Chicago based artist guild. Black Arts Guild 1973- 1976. Residencies: Early College Program School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Fashion Illustration), Urban Gateways (Cartooning workshop) Outreach Program with Chicago Public Schools, Howard University (Drawing instructor 1995-1998) TUGALOO Art Colony 2002. (CAP) Community Arts Partnership (Murals Manager) 20002-2003. Ms. Frazier work has been published by: Third World Press, Bibas’ Limited, National Black Woman’s Health Project, Future Funk, Papers Artist publications, The Afro- American News Paper, International Technology Research, Inc., South Side Health project, South End Jaycees, “ The Black Age of Comic Anthology”. Volume 1. Public Arts projects: Chicago, Illinois Randolph Street gallery Billboard for Gannet Sign Company (“Put your Message Here”) Public billboard project.

Baltimore MD.: Umbrellas for Art Arundel Mills Maryland, “Fish out of Water”, Black Cherry Puppet Theater (Mural), Baltimore Crabs.

Ms. Frazier’s work has been featured on WJZ TV Art International’s Art Competition 1997. HGTV Modern Masters 2002. Espi Frazier’s work is in The House Hold Finance Collection. Baltimore, MD. The Fredrick Douglas-Isaac Meyers Maritime Park. Baltimore, MD.

Artist Explores Facets of Female Faces

As a young art student, Espi Frazier belonged to a group of mixed media artists and performers dedicated to changing audience perceptions of African Americans.

In her upcoming solo show at the Hamilton Gallery during November, Frazier, now 60, strives to do the same for women — one of her favorite subjects.

The 18 black and white illustrations that make up “The Many Faces of Beauty” depict the faces of a variety of women of various ethnic backgrounds. “True beauty is not limited by race, age, gender,” Frazier said.

Frazier focuses on faces because she believes one’s face truly shows a person’s being and state of mind, and that the eyes reflect what is in the soul.

An early artistic start

Frazier has been enchanted with drawing since she first picked up a pencil at the age of 5. The Chicago native, who was raised in a foster home, credits her talented foster mother with setting a creative example by showing young Espi how to cook, design clothes, crochet and much more.

“I watched what she did and I learned,” said the Loch Raven resident.

Frazier completed a BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. For many years, she has taught art at Friends Middle School in Baltimore.

“Espi Frazier’s creative flare, her cool demeanor, and her demanding approach in her classes brings out the artist in all of her students,” said Friends Middle School principal Scott Harrington. “They love it, and they love Espi.”

She originally focused on fashion illustration, but in addition to her drawings and illustrations, she has developed her own “wood graphics” process that uses colored inks on relief wood carvings. She also works with mixed media, including mosaic tiles, glass, beads and copper nails.

Her favorite Egyptian symbol, the Ankh — representing life — shows up in much of her work.

Drawn to drawing

Though Frazier is well-known for her life-sized carvings, she said that drawing is her favorite medium. She uses a pencil to help her define layers, and pen and ink to explore design and pattern, which helps create her visual language.

Frazier also enjoys drawing in black and white as she feels it is equal to and sometimes more compelling than color.

Frazier credits African American and social realist artist Charles White as a strong inspiration for her work. “His understanding of light, shadow and depth of emotion was powerful, and showed me the importance of mastering the ability to draw well all the time,” said Frazier.

Frazier’s work has been showcased on HGTV Modern Masters, WJZ-TV Art International’s Art Competition, and Contemporary Craft Masters, and is in several private collections.

Though Frazier’s professional life as an artist has been multifaceted, she always returns to her first love — drawing. She said her drawings for the upcoming show were all done since this past summer, when Frazier would just sit back and watch a movie, with a pen or pencil “twirling around” in her hand.

Frazier so enjoyed the experience of creating these drawings that she thinks she may continue the series. “I love the feeling of a pencil in my hand,” she said.

The opening reception for “The Many Faces of Beauty” will be held on Friday, Nov. 4 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Hamilton Gallery, 5502 Harford Rd. Gallery hours are Tuesday, 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday to Friday, 5 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, 1 to 9 p.m.

A Gallery of Inspiration


Espi Frazier exudes energy and warmth—you see it when she flashes her easy smile, or when she runs her fingertips lightly across the intricate crevices in one of her own wood artworks, which are uniquely stained and engraved. A career artist, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) alum, and 24-year instructor at Friends School of Baltimore, Frazier’s work centers around the female form, celebrating it as goddess and life-giver.

By surrounding herself with sources of inspiration—whether it’s a detailed beaded flag made in Haiti depicting La Sirene, a mermaid Voodoo god, or a children’s book like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by pop-up artist Robert Sabuda (“Just look at that detail, it’s amazing,” she says with the turn of each page)—the artist has turned her home into a constant muse.

A three-bedroom brick rowhouse with a bucolic backyard on a tree-lined street in Loch Raven, Frazier’s home also functions as a studio and gallery. The walls are hung with artwork from floor to ceiling—both her own pieces and those she has collected since earning her master’s of fine arts from MICA’s LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting in 1995 under then-director and late legendary painter Grace Hartigan.

Espi Frazier in 30 Seconds

Grew Up: South Side, Chicago, Illinois

You Might Not Know: Originally, Frazier wanted to design clothes. “I thought I was going to be a fashion designer when I first went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I took a fashion class and learned how to sew and all that,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘I don’t like this, I just want to draw the stuff.’” She did, however, go on to instruct a course in fashion illustration for high school students at School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

Breakthrough Method: Frazier patented a technique of carving, staining, and drawing on wood, which she describes as “wood graphics.” It was spawned by a simple undergrad assignment at SAIC. “The teacher gave an assignment to draw on something other than paper,” she recalls. “So I found a piece of wood under my mom’s house.” On it, Frazier drew a woman’s figure surrounded by a woodgrain-like pattern. The original work remains on display in her home.

A Community of Artists: When Frazier moved to Baltimore in 1993, she attended social gatherings hosted by Dr. Leslie King Hammond, then MICA’s dean of graduate studies. There she was introduced to prominent Baltimore artists including mixed-media sculptor Joyce Scott, the late Tom Miller, known for his “Afro-Deco” painted furniture, mixed-media artist Oletha Devane, and public artist Linda DePalma.


About Pickens Museum

Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. Seeking to attain his tribe's highest war honor by touching his enemy. This action among indigenous peoples is called "Counting Coup".
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. “Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp” is a bronze created by Osage Artist John Free. The bronze, eight feet high and twelve feet long) was enlarged to 1-1/4 life size through the efforts of John Free of the Bronze Horse foundry in Pawhuska and Hugh Pickens. Pictured (L-R): Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. “Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman” is a mural painted by fine artist Daniel Pickens. Daniel was born in Lima, Peru in 1974 and is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. This mural is at our Ponca City location.
“"War Club" by Native Artist Yatika Starr Fields was recently acquired from Garth Greenam Gallery to Pickens Museum. Personal and social struggle have long been integral to the artist’s practice. After joining the Water Protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, Fields increasingly centered the Indigenous history of hope and struggle in his work, particularly in his studio practice. In his 2017 series, Tent Metaphor Standing Rock, Field recovered tents after the infamous February 22, 2017 police raid on the protesters. The artist recombined the vivid tenting material—the mainstay of middle-class camping holidays that has become an icon of homelessness and protest movements—into traditional Indigenous patterns, anti-pipeline slogans, and into dynamic, compelling abstract compositions. As in his graffiti works, Fields blurs the line between abstraction and representation, creating stylistic compositions out of recognizable elements, and setting them against dynamic, swirling fields of color and twisting forms. The works blur the boundaries between political polemic and abstraction, between distress, resistance and hope.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. Our mural "The Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman" is located in City Central at our Ponca City location.
Doctor Pickens Museum of Turquoise Jewelry and Art. Pickens Museum displays art works at NOC Tonkawa campus. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Cheryl Evans, NOC President, Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum, and Sheri Snyder, NOC Vice President for Development and Community Relations. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College) This art is at our Tonkawa location
Native American Artist Yatika Starr Fields Completes Mural for Pickens Museum.
The World's Largest Naja. Future location of Pickens Museum on Route 60 and "U" Street West of Ponca City
Architectural Renderings of Pickens Museum.
Aerial View from East of Future location of Pickens Museum along Route 60 at "U" Street West of Ponca City
Display of Turquoise Jewelry.
Drum player by Allan Houser. This stone carving is part of the collection at Pickens Museum.
"Red Man" by Native American Artist Fritz Scholder. Pickens Museum Director Hugh Pickens on right.
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp.
Native American Jewelry Artist Tonya Rafael with a silver frame she created to honor my wife Sr. S.J. Pickens. My wife and Tonya worked together over the years creating new jewelry art pieces. My wife had an eye for color and would often design a spectacular piece and ask Tonya to execute it for her. A skilled silversmith, Tonya would sometimes stay in our guest house, set up a workshop, and work for days at a time on a Squash Blossom, Bolo, or Bracelet my wife commissioned. The piece is a silver picture frame that Tonya cut out of thick silver plate. Around the edge of the picture frame are 95 small turquoise stones. In the top is a large spiny oyster stone in the shape of a heart. The frame contains a photo that Tonya took of my wife a few years ago. Dr. Pickens is wearing one of her favorite outfits and if you look closely you can see a special squash blossom and necklace that Tonya created for my wife. In the bottom of the frame is an inscription.
Native American Artist Jolene Bird. Jolene Bird is an accomplished artist who learned her craft from her grandfather over 20 years ago. Jolene makes her jewelry in the tradition of the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico. This is a Fender Stratocaster guitar onto which Jolene has attached pieces of Kingman and Sonoran Turquoise highlighted with Jet. The stars are in Abalone, Mother of Pearl, Pipestone, Yellow Serpentine, and Spiny Oyster. The artistry in this piece is simply breathtaking and has to be seen to be believed. Consider that this is a three dimensional mosaic, a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle if you will. Jolene told me that each individual piece of turquoise had to be cut, shaped, and ground down to fit perfectly with the other pieces. Each individual piece probably took six to eight hours to produce and there are literally hundreds of pieces covering the guitar.
American Indian by Paul Manship This piece at Pickens Museum is the only known existing copy of this sculpture.
Painting by Peruvian Artist Josue Sanchez. Photo Credit: Hugh Pickens Pickens Museum

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