My mother, Jane Imbach Schwarz, is an artist. While I never inherited her skills in the fine arts, I am imbued with her spirit and fascination with our world. I loved her for her commitment to being a great artist, an inspirational teacher, for her social ease, and for the way she conquered her struggles.We’d have heated arguments precisely because we understood each other’s point of view, and I’d always get her jokes.
My mother died November 20, 1993 at age 66. She continues to speak to me through her art. Here are some of my favorite pieces.
THREE WE-SORTS: Mom was a small-craft sailor. We were among 12 families who’s dads built one of these 12-foot sailboats in a guy’s basement one winter. They were designed on the Severn River where we lived, carried a jib and a mainsail, and was supposedly named after a local Native American word for their own kind. My brothers and I learned to sail on our We-Sort, #53.
FROM MY WINDOW: It was the view from my window as well, peering down at Sullivan Cove on the Severn River. We kids played countless hours in the woods below our house. And we lived down at the water during the summer – swim team, boating, fishing, crabbing, making trouble. The view was a constant, and forever changing depending on the season, the weather, the time of day.
NAPOLEON, SOLIPSIST: Mom and I used to argue politics – we were both progressives, but I tended to be more radical. This was painted during the Reagan administration, Iran-Contra, cold war with Gorbachev, and was part of a series of Napoleons that demonstrated her abhorrence of war.
DOROTHY DAY: A Christian Socialist, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, she and her followers demonstrated a radical commitment to the poor by establishing houses they shared with the homeless and offering nonviolent resistance to war and oppression. Mom and I were both committed and active Catholics, and while we enjoyed a very middle-class life, considered Dorothy Day a hero/saint.
AMERICA: Mom was a patriot. Patriotism did not come easily for me as a young man, and Mom shared my protest of much that is wrong with our county. But she taught me a love for this country, for all the good that it is.
CHINESE KITE: We were surrounded by Asian art in our household, and Mom was particularly fond of flying kites. I love the surrealism of this piece. The background is whimsical, fantastical – I see all kinds of images amid the myriad of shapes. The kite is other-worldly relative to it’s surroundings, but perhaps it’s the kite that is creating the havoc all around it.
GRAPE HOLLY: This was one of my favorite shrubs on our property. I love how Mom captured the spirit of this plant, it’s prickliness, the tender lines, varied colors, airiness and density, and the dramatic infusion of berries.
PINE TREES: Another painting that, for me, so captured the essence of a plant, the pininess of pine trees. It’s cool how a lot of the branches and needles are defined by the stuff around them.
PAPER WASP: She hand-made the paper for this piece, even incorporated some material from a wasp’s nests. She was always finding stuff in the woods around our house and sharing the latest fascination. As well, she often experimented with other forms of expression.
CHESSIE: An etching of our local monster. Mom did a lot of wonderful engravings, and speculated before she died whether the caustic chemicals they required were the cause of her pancreatic cancer. It wasn’t with a sense of regret, but more an acknowledgement that perhaps she was dying for the cause.
DANDELIONS: This is one of the paintings Mom did when she was dying of cancer. It’s a big canvas, probably 3 ft. square. To me it show’s a freedom of movement, with dramatic and violent brush strokes, while depicting the tender and ephemeral dying flower.
“The transfer of naturally inspired beauty into another medium more often than not fails. This is usually due to the human predilection to merely glance at the world surrounding us and to let our responses be dictated by presuppositions. . . . Ms. Schwarz has put before us a collection of intimate objects that have transcended their two-dimensional bounds and tell us of things we take for granted – beauty and the spirit that fills it.”
Mike Purvis (The Capital) – April 15, 1993
WANT TO SEE MORE?
I hope you enjoy this glimpse of my mother, this artist, who continues to be a part of my life. I just put together a Flickr page of her artwork – nearly 100 images of oils, watercolors, drawings, engravings, and liturgical wall hangings created throughout her life. You’re invited to immerse yourself in her work.