“Neurotica”, My Life in Pictures

    In 2014 I drew my autobiography, making a kind of timeline on sheets of paper 15″ tall and eventually about 30′ wide. I started in the present and worked backwards. Having filled in my past, taking up the present,  I began making little accordion books, sizes varying depending upon what I’m thinking about and processing. The early books are around 5″ high, with folds every 4″ or so.  The more recent ones have grown a little taller.

    I used to struggle a lot with what, and how much, to disclose in my work about the details of my life and my psychology.. Now, though, four  years in, I’m  still making these expressive little journals of thoughts and issues. With more books in process, tasteless or not, here they are, for viewing. Humor, angst, Zen, daily delights, nature and nurture are all mixed up. Presented as processed, cut and sewn, one non sequitur followed by another, I call them “Neurotica”.


    What I Saw. How It Was. September 1- October 1, 2016 at Butters Gallery in Portland, OR

     What I Saw. How It Was, the work of 2015 and 2016, is evidence of my wanderings and how some of what I saw moved through me. Plants, spaces, places and moments emerge from the deep pleasure of making a gesture with paint and ink, brush and finger, adding and subtracting.

    These paintings are what I see with my eyes closed.

    They are also what I saw as I meandered. I watch as a magnolia opens before my eyes.  A universe of bees drunk on pollen is revealed in a blossom. Geese stalk toddlers.  Mother duck and ducklings cross the street at a stoplight. I am there when first raindrops fall on a lake and water meets water.  I am looking when red seeds extrude and spill from magnolia fruit to expose a moment of botanical pornography. Two leaves attach and entwine, then float together through Crystal Springs to Johnson Creek. Here is a beaver dam adorned with golf balls at the pond near the golf course while nearby in gnawed tree trunks covered in pitch, I observe the birth of amber as ants and spiders meet untimely deaths. I feel the presence of ancient beings in John Day and in a cold mist at the Rhododendron Garden, I am overtaken with the beauty of a sudden squall.

    These experiences, and others, are the stuff of the paintings, embedded in the panels with wax, crayon, ink, paper, and more. Making the work is a process of painting, drawing, scraping, erasing, melting, redrawing, scrubbing and then doing it all over again. There is joy and despair. I ruin decent paintings and destroy others as I pursue some specific bit of ephemera.

    With luck, work and magic I reassemble the elusive presence of time and being, the “how it was”, to live in a world of paint. I don’t know what drives me to this activity; nevertheless I continue to try to understand my experience of the world by recreating it.

    Hashtag: Visions and Revisions: A Five Year Conversation at Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art

    Zen practice and art practice have much in common: hours on the cushion or hours in the studio and solitude mark both practices. An artist working alone faces similar perils as the Zen student.

    Zen Master Seung Sahn used to tell his students to practice Zen together because practicing alone allows one to live in too much comfortable illusion. “I am clear, calm, good, bad…” . Illusions all. Not until we bump up against each other do we have the opportunity to see who, how, what we really are. That happens as a result of challenges as well as comradery. I’m part of  a group of Portland area artists who have been getting together once a month at one of our homes and/or studios for nearly five years to talk about, think about and look at art and to listen to each other.   During the meetings we also eat, laugh, and just see what happens. Over time, a lot happens.  But not until much time has passed and circumstances permit does one see what actually has transpired.

    Jeffrey Thomas took an interest in our group (which seems to have become an entity with identity and energy of its own) and has mounted the exhibition: Visions and Revisions: A Five Year Conversation. On the walls one sees the conversation. Or at the very least one sees who is having it. In addition to the visual conversation we are participating each Saturday in a “Conversation With the Artists”, moderated by the inimitable Jeffrey Thomas, including our group and all who come to participate.

    The Saturday schedule:

    January 23-Visions and Revisions Artist Panel #1: Jef Gunn, Trude Parkinson, Stephanie Doyle, Pat Barrett

    January 30-Visions and Revisions Artist Panel #2 : Claire Browne, Clinton MacKenzie, Kate Johnson, Andrea Schwartz-Feit

    February 6- Why Painting Still Matters

    February 13-What is the Relevance of Titles?

    February 20-Kate Johnson’s Crash Course on the History of Painting, abridged edition

    February 27- Curator’s Tour and Closing Reception Party


    All discussions are from 4-6 pm in the Gallery:  Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art,    2219  NW Raleigh, Portland, OR,    503-544-3449

    Please Join Us!




    Works in Progress: The Figures

    When looking at the Full Circle exhibition  I realized that my work was taking me in a direction that actually surprised me. I have been making paintings for eons by now, and small figurative wax sculptures for over a decade. The sculptures have always felt more like an adjunct practice, not part of the real body of work; a separate, pleasurable art making activity but one that had no real place in the serious work, the real work. But since a 2011 exhibition when David Butters hung a wall of paintings in a totally ingenious way, the idea of the figures and paintings interacting with each other within the gallery took hold. So in the Full Circle show, figures were placed on the floor, interacting with each other, looking at the paintings. Throughout the run they were moved and rearranged. And since the show closed, the remaining figures have been in a space where they are still in relationship to each other.

    Since November I have been working almost entirely on the wax figures, still seeing them in relationship with the paintings, but wanting the figures to be the primary subject and the paintings secondary. Actually, more accurately, the paintings came to seem to be the thoughts/ideas of the sculptural people. So the people, though still small, are a lot bigger than they used to be. The new figures are about 2/3′s of my size, 40 plus inches standing. Their construction poses many problems, and I am a slow learner. I am, however, learning. I am on the fourth figure now and although none are completely done, each one is pretty close. Here are some images of parts of the learning curve and its results.



    When I saw the group of figures (above) mixed in with the paintings at Butters Gallery in the Full CIrcle show, I realized that the next thing in store was going to be a challenge. For the first time, I wanted to see the sculptures as the basis for the paintings, the ground upon which the paintings could exist,  rather than as an auxiliary, secondary, part of the work.

    I started studying art as a sculptor, and really found my way into the art world drawing and sculpting the figure. Peter Agostini (click  link to view his work) was my teacher. I was, at age 16, enthralled. Even so, as my work evolved, I found myself better able to develop a way of working through painting. The work has been idea based and I’ve never really had ideas for sculpture.  Now, however, I’m feeling that building the figure is enough of an idea. Perhaps it’s old(er) age, but suddenly ideas beyond the body, literally, seem  unnecessary.


    Alumni Exhibition at Marylhurst University

    Alumni Exhibition at Marylhurst University

    I graduated from Marylhurst University (then College) in 1997 with a BFA. The three years I spent there were truly some of the best of my life. Most Marylhurst students were “adult learners”, i.e. many years separated high school and either going back to school or matriculating for the first time. Respect for one’s life’s experiences, consideration of other important aspects of one’s life, and an open-minded, flexible  approach to pre-existing interests and functional choices were all part of what made the student experience at Marylhurst so wonderful. As a 40 year old with the goal of acquiring a degree, Marylhurst offered all I could hope for. And, as luck would have it, it was even better than I’d imagined.

    One of the beneficial aspects of truly terrible university policies for educators is that students at many small and/or public colleges gain access to some of the most amazing teachers around who would have had, in prior years, secure positions at a single institution. It’s hard to say whether the best part of my educational experience was my exposure to great teachers or equally great students. In either case, I made great and lasting friendships with both. Upon graduation, I had a group of peers who were well known respected within the Portland art community.

    I am always proud to say I graduated from Marylhurst; given that I’d attended two of the most prestigious art schools in the nation, the New York Studio School and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) add context to my pride and pleasure.  The idea of team spirit at Marylhurst can only bring a wry smile to one’s lips; the once functional gymnasium at the Catholic women’s college has been the school’s art gallery for a long time now. Even so, I till want to give a big cheer: Go Marylhurst!!

    Full Circle in Full Swing

    “Leaving behind the fastidious order of her grid-based works, Andrea Schwartz-Feit employs a versatile curlicue motif in her new series. Variously resembling trees, fish, fences and Slinkies, this motif allows the artist a gestural freedom and allusiveness that she is obviously relishing. The show’s most compelling works, Amnesia and Innards, isolate the coil motif in a window of illumination, cordoned off from an otherwise waxy, black night. The artist complements the paintings with encaustic sculptures that are by turns whimsical and stoic. Liberated from the grid, Schwartz-Feit has found a new lyricism. Through Oct. 27.”  From WillametteWeek, Richard Speer 

    Full Circle, Exhibition at Butters Gallery,  Portand OR

    Full Circle, Exhibition at Butters Gallery, Portand OR

    Of the new paintings, Richard Speer states: “Andrea Schwartz-Feit’s wax-based paintings gain a fresh freedom in her latest body of work. For years, the artist used tightly controlled grids to depict abstract patterns and natural scenes in twinkly blocks of color. Now, she has deep-sixed the grid and unleashed a gift for flowing gesture. Most of her forms are ovals that loop up, down, over and around, in patterns that variously resemble trees, flowers, chain link and other natural and human-made objects. Light-hearted, even dainty, in their compositions despite their heavy grayscale palette, the paintings make thrifty use of negative space and subtly textured surfaces. ”
    (Richard Speer Willamette Week, Fall Arts Guide, September 17,2012)

    In addition, with this exhibition, my signature wax figures make a return. Now, they appear in full color and in relationship with the paintings as well as in groupings of their own.

    Opening: 6-9 p.m. Thursday October 4, 2012
    with a talk by the artist Saturday October 20 at 2 p.m.

    Butters Gallery
    520 NW Davis St.
    Portland, OR