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Robert Matthew Freimark

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Robert Matthew Freimark Resident of Morgan Hill Artist, film-maker, Professor Emeritus from SJSU, died February 18,2010, after prolonged illnesses. He was 88 years old. Prolific in painting, printmaking, watercolors and tapestries, Bob's enthusiasm for life, learning, travel and exploration was contagious. Born in Doster, MI, January 27,1922, to Alvin Otto Freimark and Nora (Shinevar) Freimark, his family moved to Toledo, OH,in 1932. There Bob developed his boxing skills in the Golden Gloves competitions, before joining the U.S.Navy and serving in the Pacific from 1939 to 1946. Freimark graduated in 1950 from the University of Toledo, Ohio with a BA in creative writing, as well as from the Toledo Museum of Art with a major in Painting. He received his MFA in painting from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. He began his extensive teaching career at the Toledo Museum of Art and at Ohio University in Athens. Meanwhile he produced art prodigiously, while lecturing and jurying art shows. His art was found in scores and eventually hundreds of collections, private and public, and in galleries and museums all over the U.S. and internationally. From 1959 to 1963 Freimark was Artist-in-Residence at the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa. In 1961 Bob and his family traveled extensively in Mexico. They returned in 1963, living in Mexico City, where Bob exhibited a well-appreciated one-man show. Bob and his family moved to Morgan Hill in 1964, and Bob began his 22-year teaching career at SJSU. Some highlights include his work on a large series of silk-screen prints depicting all 50 U.S. States, creation of a suite of 500 California landscapes, painted in watercolor on site outdoors, and the receipt of a grant for "Rehabilitation through Art", which he used to open an art studio and teach in Soledad State Prison. He was active in the historic 1967-68 SJSU strike by the American Federation of Teachers, which sought "Third World Studies" for the university system, and he initiated an extremely popular class on the history of Mexican Art. In 1970-71 Freimark took a year's sabbatical, traveling with his wife and daughter to 18 countries in Europe. This eye-opening, mind-expanding experience was truly life-changing for all three. Bob traveled with an exhibition of his "50 States" serigraphs, opening first at the Moravian Museum in Brno, Czechoslovakia at the height of the Cold War. In Brno they also enjoyed an emotional family reunion with their Czech relatives, after decades of separation! Exhibitions and lectures were held in Denmark, England and Germany. At Vlnena Woolen Mills in Brno, Bob created tapestries for over 25 years using the unique Art Protis technique. In 1972-73 Bob was Guest Artist at Harvard University's Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, where he was responsible for starting the lithographic studio. In 1981 he and Warren Haack filmed "Dias de Los Muertos", in Mexico. They collaborated on three more documentaries: "Arte Cubano", "Los Desaparecidos" and "Royal Chicano Air Force". Bob set-up the Artist-in-Residence program for the National Parks, which he initiated at Yosemite in 1984. In the 1990's he helped sponsor art work to protect the landscape and wildlife at Elkhorn Slough, to protect it from the destruction called "development". Well into Bob's 80's, he continued his prodigious and passionate output of artworks, his dizzying worldwide traveling, an intense schedule of cultural and social events, and a rewarding home life cultivating a large, productive garden, cooking adventurously, and hosting fascinating guests from all over the world. In 2007, at 85, the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, CA hosted a solo retrospective of his work: "Bob Freimark:Art of Dissent", while at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Tapestries his Art Protis tapestries were shown. His life-long passionate pursuit of "maximum artistic fulfillment" has been a joy-filled, vivid, high-energy adventure, and a powerful example to all Bob's family and his many friends, students, colleagues and observers. He radiated idealism, warmth, wit and joy, and retained a life-long, steadfast commitment to advocating for the arts, education, ethical values, the environment and peace. After a difficult, debilitating two-and-a-half years of multiple concurrent illnesses, Bob died at Santa Teresa Kaiser Hospital in San Jose,CA. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 51 years, Lillian, who died in 2005. He is survived by a son, Matisse Freimark, and daughter, Christine Freimark, sister Marilyn O'Donnell, brother Howard Freimark, and many cousins, nieces and nephews. A Memorial Celebration will be held this Saturday, March 20, 2010, from 2PM to 7PM at the Gavilan College Student Center in Gilroy, CA.
Published in San Jose Mercury News on Mar. 20, 2010
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