Artists on Coping: Sylvia Schwartz

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

Queen and Dressing Up, ODETTA 2019

Sylvia Schwartz was born in Australia but has lived more than half her life in NYC. Her art work explores the relationship between drawing painting and sculpture, or the shifting relationship between the imagined and the real. A recurring theme in her work is the physical and psychological spaces we inhabit. Schwartz’s work has been seen in group exhibitions in Manhattan, New Jersey and Brooklyn, including ODETTA, Lesley Heller gallery, Nurture art, several university galleries, the Attleboro Museum, and the Visual Art Center of New Jersey.

AS: How are you coping?

Sylvia:From December through February I was with family in Australia during the bush fires. The smoke in the air made every moment a reminder of uncertainty. I began collecting sea sponges from the beach, dipping them in paint and pressing them into canvas with varying degrees of water. I brought some of these sea sponges back to N.Y. I have also been weaving. The two mediums feel alive in different ways yet very interdependent. Both weaving and paint on canvas have an unshakable certainty, an invisible foundation.

I am lucky my studio is at home but I’m also thinking about my children studying at college in Australia during the lock down there. I miss them. A continuity has been interrupted and the Corona virus makes them seem even further away. The printing and weaving are open ended but also full of structure. That helps a little to deal with the uncertainty of the future. My friends and community feel vital to me at this time so talking more often helps me stay on the rails.

Untitled 2019

AS: Has your routine changed?

Sylvia: My routine hasn’t changed that much. It is nice having my husband work from home. I am trying to accept working with more mental distractions. I stop and start activities much more, putting more emphasis on cooking and trying to exercise indoors.

Traveling Down, 2019 Detail

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

Sylvia: I think artists are attuned to loss and this experience makes you think of every loss you have ever had. Some days it is tormenting having my kids on the other side of the world. I worry about my friends and family and hope we all come out in one piece.

Yellow, 2019

AS: What matters most right now?

Sylvia: Perhaps what matters is not judging ourselves and others. Also, trying not to think much beyond the next day. The challenge is to reach out and be sensitive to others without becoming overwhelmed and paralyzed.

Sewn piece No. 5, 2019

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

Sylvia: My hope is that this catastrophe will help people and governments face our interconnectedness with one another and with the environment, our dependence on one another, and the importance of providing services to all; the financial inequality between people becomes increasingly more frightening. I also fantasize about the day I will be living in the same country as my children again.

Back to the Beginning, studio view 2020, photo courtesy of the aritst

Photos by Jeanette May unless otherwise indicated.

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: