Francesca Schwartz, you are a therapist and psychoanalyst. What made you
decide to start your career as an artist?
I would not say that I ever made that conscious decision, but early on I would see combinations of things and ideas. and This shaped how I entered the world. In developing my career as a psychologist and playing it straight, which is what I thought was required to be a good mother, my expression as an artist disappeared for about 20 years. It was the death of my mother that called fourth expression of unarticulated despair. It was through facing the loss of my mother that I found my way to artistry.
Do you remember a particular episode that set you in motion and guided you in
I have always had a morbid and excited interest in death, so imposing but so unknowable. I remember a spectacular autumn day walking through the park, and my predisposition to search for signs and symbols. I was starved for a “sign” from my mother but saw only leaves and sky. That evening I was serving guests a pork shoulder that I had been brining for days and upon removing it from the oven, the meat had separated from the bone. The bone flew right across the room and in the morning, I retrieved this beautiful, overcooked bone from under the dining table.
A sign from my mother, I concluded. So began the World Bone Project.
Francesca Schwartz, No Hidden Intentions, photo courtesy by the Artist
The bones speak for themselves rather than being abstractions for something else. The bones interrogate the same questions over and over, where is the beginning, where is the end. I look to the interior in search of interiority. I am compelled to interrogate the impermanent stillness and loss. I am in awe of the whiteness and the clarity that emerges after my long struggle to purify the bone.
Is it an effort to erase memory? In your works besides the bones, your memories often recur.
Yes, I also work with collage because memories register in the body, forming a mysterious presence that awaits articulation. I had a primitive encounter with the breaking and purifying. Collage reveals and conceals, capturing the body, capturing memory, capturing what is fleeting.
With aging, trauma, and death we encounter our bodies and ourselves. Collage relies on this sense of fragmentation and re-assemblage.
The spettro of the chromaticity of your works finds a balance between the shades of white and black. Why in your last works did you choose to add energetic and vital touches of red?
I am fascinated with the purity of black and white. Black is my favorite color and I find it very still, almost soothing. White and whiteness can be pure and divine, or suggest the presence of evil. The color red emerged in the work after I survived a concussion, creating a chaos where blood was escaping from the back of my head. I lost several days of memory as well, so I was driven to capture this lost experience and red seemed to capture this search.
For some of your works you have buried personal memories underground, so
you have unearthed them and used them as artistic tools. Is it correct to speak of
aesthetics of your rebirth?
I must say I had a lot of fun, burying and then recovering images I had taken of body parts, bones and most notably, my mother’s hands. You could say that the collaged selves that emerged from the series was a rebirth of sorts.
Francesca Schwartz, Once, photo courtesy by the Artist
You immerse yourself in the depths of your consciousness as if to catch something unexplored, or to be reacquired. Your works of art reveal your affections and elaborate some bloody episodes concerning your body. Is art also a heaven for you to hide and heal?
I think that the capacity and effort to symbolize and experience, be it a feeling or trauma to the body, has a restorative element that cannot be found any other way. But to hide? I find making art to be mercilessly exposing!
Francesca Schwartz, The Black Hole, photo courtesy by the Artist
Why is the woman's body so present in your works?
The female body is a mystery as is her psyche. The body is inscribed with history, the body is a storyteller. A woman’s body carries the markings of her travels, knowing that her path is recognizably female. A woman’s body is a meditation.
Why are men never present?
What do I really know about men!?
What did it mean for you to exhibit with Clio Art Fair?
I adore Clio and it was my first Art Fair. I felt very welcomed, and there is a great ease amongst the artists who come and the people who pass through. Meeting new artists and dealers, and stumbling upon great exchanges – with not a gallery in site!
Francesca Schwartz, At Rest, photo courtesy by the Artist