Artist James Frye hears colors

James Frye The Keyboardist
James Frye "The Keyboardist"

By Debra Muzikar

“I feel practical when I do my art,” James Frye of Spokane, Washington says.


James Frye, 20, is making a business out of his art.

“It’s not a hobby,” his mom Wendy says. “This is his job. He is working through Vocational Rehabilitation. We just wrote up a business plan. He’s been doing shows every month.”

James Frye "Self-portrait of myself"
James Frye “Self-portrait of myself”

James, who recently told his parents, “I hear the colors,” spends his work week surfing the internet researching ideas.

Then on Saturday between 3:00 – 4:00 AM he rises and in the privacy of his own world, creates his colorful images. By 9:00 AM he’s ready to save his work.

And what he creates his magical.

James Frye "Fractal Faces" Watercolor
James Frye “Fractal Faces” Watercolor

“He says he feels practical,” Wendy says, “Because this is his natural ability. He makes something from scratch after intensive research.”

James is influenced by the pop-art posters that hang in his home. His dad, an elementary school teacher, has an impressive collection of vinyl from the British Invasion. “The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, MOOG synthesized music,” Wendy says.

James Frye "Electro King"
James Frye “Electro King”

“James has his own collection of vinyl and music memorabilia going,” Wendy says.

The music inspires the art. “We feel James has the talent to make graphic art for music covers or posters for musical artists,” Wendy says.

James creates his art using an electronic drawing pad that integrates into his computer. He draws all his work himself freehand. Then his mom takes the images and blows them up on canvas.

“Most of them are really big – like 3 feet by 3 feet,” Wendy says.

James Frye "Blue Meanie's Brains"
James Frye “Blue Meanie’s Brains”

“We think the most interesting thing is what he names his pieces – it really reveals his mind and its become his mode of communication. Complicated and abstract,” Wendy says.

James was diagnosed with autism at age 3. He was nonverbal until he was close to 6, and had no real language until he was 8 years old. He still has language challenges.

“He stumbles on the why questions,” Wendy says, “and he has no filter.”

James Frye "The Keyboardist"
James Frye “The Keyboardist”

James, who had been in self-contained Special Education classrooms his entire academic life, surprised teachers when he passed the standardized test to receive his high school diploma.

His art teachers believed in him. “His ceramics teacher stayed on an extra year to help him,” Wendy says.

James donated ceramic pieces to the Autism Trust for a fundraiser
James donated ceramic pieces to the Autism Trust for a fundraiser

“Everyone went wild when he received his diploma,” Wendy says. He received a “stomping ovation” from his peers at the ceremony.

The video below shows his graduation (towards the end of the video).

His graduation gift was a trip to the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.

“He’s so much more relaxed since graduating,” Wendy says. “He was tired of being in special education classes and being observed all the time.”

James’ art is heavily influenced by post-modern artists. He has books of art he looks at in his room. His favorite artists are Picasso, Kadinsky, Mondrain, and Charlie Harper.

James goals are to learn animation, travel, and to learn the practical aspects of his business, such as how to put a canvas together.

James Frye "Watch of Entertainment"
James Frye “Watch of Entertainment”

“James is a synesthetes,” Wendy says.

“He hears the colors when he listens to music.” Synesthesia is a neurological condition where stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

“We want James to fulfill his destiny which is communicating through his art,” Wendy says.

To view more of James art visit his website or his facebook page.

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