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Knicoma Frederick


picture of Knicoma Frederick

Folk Art: Visual Arts

By: Gail Obenreder

“In art, it is about the force within you that enables you to catch the viewer’s eye.”

Knicoma Frederick creates art like his life depends on it – because it does. As a man navigating the disability spectrum, the artist sees his work as the central – and centering – force in his life, and it’s his hope that it serves to also animate those who see his paintings. “I want the viewers to use the pictures [as an] answer for concerns that have to do with their everyday lives.”

“Many painters paint to please the crowd, many painters paint to become rich, many painters paint to be in the competition,” but Frederick sees his artmaking as service. In the process of looking at his paintings and drawings, “a person might find what is bothering them that was hard to discover or put into words,” and Frederick hopes that art will then become a conduit for people to find “a solution in an artistic way.”

Born in Brooklyn, Frederick attended high school in Dover, and he now works in a Wilmington studio at his artistic home, the Creative Vision Factory. CVF director Michael Kalmbach (himself a Fellowship recipient) founded this communal space where artists on the behavioral health spectrum can pursue their practice, and Frederick is well-established there. Amazingly prolific, he was the recipient of an Emerging Artist Fellowship in 2013, a year in which he made 12 hand-drawn books with over 100 works in each. The Delaware Art Museum purchased his first book for their collection, and in the ensuing decade his work has not slowed.

artwork showing a flag, person with large radio and cityscape
“Untitled from the Series Channel A (One Billion Dollars),” 2020, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 x 2.5 inches
painting with a large key and people inside above a car
“Untitled from the Series Channel A (Key to Life),” 2019, acrylic on canvas, 70 x 60 x 2.5 inches
outlines of male and female figures in a flower
“Untitled from the Series Channel A (Couple in Flower),” 2019, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 x 1 inches

As he continues to create his books and paintings, Frederick’s intensely personal visionary work is receiving wider recognition. His paintings were the subject of an extensive, in-depth 2016 profile in the online international blog Disparate Minds that cited his work as “a way to access something deeper than merely tangible or social ends.”

The artist has also been seen in the 2017 Brooklyn exhibition Storytellers and in group shows at Philadelphia’s Fleisher/Ollman Gallery – Then is New and Touching from a Distance (both 2020) – as well as in their recent traveling exhibition Yo Melbourne We’re from Philly, seen at Arts Project Australia and curated by Fleisher/Ollman director Alex Baker.

But working at the Creative Vision Factory continues to anchor the Delaware artist, whose 2020 solo show A New America was exhibited at the Chris White Gallery in Wilmington’s West Center City. And as he did after receiving his 2013 Emerging Fellowship, Frederick will use this award of an Established Fellowship to continue to pour out the work that showcases his wide range of ideas and interest in hopes it will illuminate those who see it.

Frederick believes “that the paintings actually change and influence people . . . artistically, the picture gave the issue the sense it needed (because of the concept) that fit the cause for a certain yearning.”

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