Trish Shwart, an active Victoria painter, sits down in conversation with Lynden Miller at the University of Victoria to discuss her life and works as a woman artist living and working on Canada’s west coast.
"Cricket Field," 30x40, acrylic on wood panel
"No Shoes - Night Swimming," 20x20, acrylic on paper mounted on wood cradle
"Our Reservoir," 30x30, acrylic on wood panel
Trish Shwart is a visual artist focused on landscape paintings and drawings. She is based in Victoria, BC, Canada. She has worked with multi-media, incorporating a range of influences from politics to poetry. Her creative practice is continually evolving along with her colourful, expressive technique. Recent paintings of urban landscapes explore her personal response to physical surroundings, leaving their interpretation largely open to the audience.
Trish has always been highly creative. She was born to a Ukrainian family in Ontario. She later moved to Winnipeg as a child, eventually living in Calgary after travelling and attending university for interior design. Her formal art training began at an early age, as she attended group lessons, frequented galleries, and filled sketchbooks.
She then moved to Vancouver to study visual art at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Shortly after graduating, she moved to the Gulf Islands with her young family, then beginning a career in government in Victoria. Working on small scale works and exhibits, she balanced her roles as an artist and a mother of three.
She now works full-time as an artist out of her in-home studio. She actively participates in solo and group shows in the Victoria and Vancouver area. She is looking forward to exhibiting more in the coming years and working on collaborative projects with other local women artists in the BC arts community.
Trish describes her sources of inspiration, both visual and otherwise.
I’ll start with either a feeling or words.Trish Shwart
Trish, on creating the impression of a space through brushwork.
I want people … to feel like they’re in a real space that they can be in.Trish Shwart
Trish comments on the value of audience feedback.
I’ve had twice now where people have looked at my paintings and started to cry.Trish Shwart
Trish, on knowing her audience.
People look at art where they see it.Trish Shwart
In Conversation with Trish Shwart
Full Interview Transcription
Edited and transcribed by Lynden Miller in consultation with Trish Shwart.
Text in square brackets indicates additions or subtractions from original interview as recorded in the audio file above.
Lynden Miller (hereafter LM): So, hi, my name is Lynden Miller and I’m here today interviewing Trish Shwart. Hopefully I’m pronouncing that correctly. It’s October 26, 2018 and we are at the University of Victoria. I’m researching on behalf of the Art History and Visual Studies department, under Dr. Carolyn Butler-Palmer. We are part of the Pacific Northwest Women’s Artists Oral History Initiative, with the help of the Victoria Arts Council, and their [Arts Coordinator], Brin O’Hare. I would also like to start off with a territorial acknowledgement, just to respectfully acknowledge that we are on the traditional unceded territory of the Lekwungen speaking peoples, and we are able to work and learn on their land. So, that’s about it for my intro. I was hoping you could start me off by telling me a bit about yourself, and your early life. We can start there.
Trish Shwart (hereafter TS): Yeah, I know tell me about your life is such a daunting question. Where do you even start? I was born in Ontario [and] my family moved to Winnipeg when I was six. I got my first degree in interior design at the University of Manitoba. I had wanted to go to art school, but I came from a family that didn’t have very much money and there was a “what are you crazy?” kind of question going on. So, I graduated and started working and I traveled for a couple of years around the world, which was great. I came back [and was working in Calgary.] After about a year and a half, I thought I really need[ed] to go to art school, and so I did.
I went to Emily Carr [University of Art and Design]. I moved to Vancouver and I felt that even if financially it was a dumb decision [it was important to do.] I felt like my life really started once I went to art school, in a kind of odd way.
Then, like many women, I had kids, and although I continued to paint I realize now … that all I was really doing was keeping my hand in. It wasn’t like my work was really developing much. I was looking at a lot of artists and I did some work that I feel good about, but on the whole, I wasn’t able to make art or to be creative in the way that I can be, now that I’ve got a lot of time. But I think that’s a pretty typical women artist’s career especially if you’ve had kids. You think about people like Phyllida Barlow, or Rose Wylie, who are considered late bloomers, but are actually just women living their lives.
Unless you’re prepared to not have kids. [Most women have to decide whether to have children or focus solely on their career. I had three children very close together and that was time consuming and took a lot of mental energy.] We ended up both work[ing] here, and then the kids grew up here, and it worked out.
LM: Great. Yeah. Just-
TS: Is that too long?
LM: No, that’s perfect. That’s great. We’ll just backtrack a tiny bit just so I can clear up a few things.
LM: What made you move to Vancouver for Emily Carr? What made you choose that school?
TS: I guess I had been researching schools and [Emily Carr] had a [good] reputation. I didn’t want to learn art in a university environment. I wanted more of a hands-on experience. Emily Carr is now certified as a university, and it was actually certified two years after I left. But… I had this idea that it would be more practical, more pragmatic to learn about art in that kind of environment. It wasn’t actually that environment, because it was the eighties, and craft was sort of on the way out, and conceptual art was on the way in. And so, you had to find your own little small group of people who would consider painting something that was recognizable as valuable.
LM: Sure. That’s great. So, you were doing painting mostly at Emily Carr?
TS: You had to pick a major at that time. So, I did painting and I did print making. I would have done ceramics except I wasn’t allowed to do three.
LM: Okay, great. So, lots of variety. That’s always good. Did you do much painting before you went to Emily Carr?
TS: I did some terrible watercolours that I can’t believe they let me into the program honestly, but I was keen. Also, I was considered a mature student, because I was 28 when I went. So, I had a different experience of art school than someone who’s just come out of high school. I remember thinking, because I’d been working for a while that this is so awesome, here’s all this time and I can go for coffee break whenever I want and I can leave whenever I want. More than half the class were 17, 18, 19, and they were always complaining about the assignments, and why do we have to do this? I felt like it was hard for them to find meaning in the work, because they had such a limited life experience.
LM: Great. What kind of work were you doing in between?
TS: Like, after Emily Carr into now, or…?
LM: Before; Emily Carr, university, and before that.
TS: Oh, you know, the usual schlock I think most people do: fill tons of sketchbooks with drawings, and I did a lot of work out of my memories of things. I burnt everything [when I left Winnipeg as I didn’t want to be moving it around.]
LM: That’s very fair. Definitely. Alright, did any of your family have any past art experience? You mentioned they were a little skeptical of that.
TS: I was the first person in my extended family to graduate from high school, go to university. I came from…[an] immigrant working subsistence farmer background. My grandparents moved to [Winnpeg from the farm and] my mother had only grade eight education. She was really big on “you are going to university.” I sometimes joked, but I wonder if it was true, that I was in second year before I realized [attending university] wasn’t compulsory.
My mother could draw, and she sewed a lot, and she was very creative in terms of how she approached those kinds of tasks. But, she would never call herself an artist. I don’t think I would call her an artist either, but she had a [creative] leaning.
LM: Did you have any formative experience, I guess would be the word, that made you want to start drawing or creating?
TS: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing. So, by time I was six, I was [filling] sketchbooks with these bad drawings of people that look a little Picasso-like in my memory. When I was about eight or nine, my sister and brother went to swimming lessons on Saturdays and I went to art classes. [They were taught by] Пані [Mrs.] Antonovich [who] was a well-known [portrait] artist in [the] Ukraine. There must have been five or six [students there every Saturday.]
[Because] it was really a small group, [I got a lot of] hands-on attention. [Two students from the University of Manitoba fine arts department came regularly], and they would make comments on my work, and that was really useful. [Mrs. Antonovich required accuracy in the drawings we were making whereas the university students] were looking for more [creativity]. I remember a particular watercolour [- the back view of me looking at] myself in the mirror [which] we talked about for [several] Saturdays in a row, and that was really positive for me.
I was really keen. I went to the art galleries to [attend other art] classes [and a program called] painting in the park [over] the summer. So, I had a lot of experience [learning about art as a youngster]. When I think about it [no one should have been surprised that] I wanted to take fine arts.
LM: Makes sense in retrospect. What artists were you inspired by, maybe not so early as those early classes, but into your formal education?
TS: Well, I loved people like Giorgio Morandi [and] David Hockney. I had a huge phase of being in love with Vuillard. This [was] when some early feminist [ideas were] starting to happen [in] the art world [such as] Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party. … [At Emily Carr] all our instructors were male, so they had a particular aesthetic. [Judy Chicago talks in] a book I read about the Phallic symbol [being] seen as [aesthetically pleasing to the male eye], and so I did a few little jokey things where I would show the professor something [that] had a more phallic-like symbol versus something else and they always responded positive[ly]. So, I realized there’s some merit to this.
There was a woman who came to the art school from New York who was brilliant. So, we have a huge petition to get her to come back, but they hired a guy.
LM: Yes, that is the way it goes.
TS: That’s the way it goes, that is the way it went.
TS: I have always been influenced, not just by the visuals, but I would say by the world around me [and] what’s happening as well.
LM: Definitely. You were certainly aware of-
TS: And it finds its way into my work.
LM: Certainly. Do you still find that you’re working with those bigger concepts now?
TS: I did a series maybe two years ago where I was looking at politics. I don’t know how familiar you are with my work, because it’s not that well known. I did an installation called “Sleep Factory,” where I was making comments about personalized medicine. Who’s going to be able to afford this at a certain point? Who’s going to pay for it? Also, the marketing of medicines and the marketing of disease. [The project presupposed there was] a factory [that] could [make] sleep, and you could buy it. If you’re a student, there was a student price you could get an hour. If you were wealthy you could get eight or nine hours.
The whole thing was kind of funny, I hope. At the opening I wore a silk pajama top over my regular clothes that said “Sleep Factory.” And so, I was selling also the products theoretically, and if anybody wanted a franchise…
Although, now I’m starting to do something less [blatantly] political . I’m hoping to be more subtle around this stuff that I’m commenting on.
LM: Is there any reason…?
TS: That was a little in your face.
LM: Oh no, that’s totally fine.
TS: I had done another installation piece with dioramas around stories we tell ourselves, then I did those small political paintings. I had a show in July called “Down the Road From Where We Stayed,” and it’s about how we see the world, and how by seeing the world we influence ourselves, and then the world back again. It’s a little bit about climate change. You know, those yellow [smokey] skies we had [this summer, I think they] change[d] our perception of what [is around us]. There’s [a] dichotomy that goes on [between] us as human beings and the nature around us. I think that is political in a very sort of minimalist sense.
LM: That’s great stuff. Yeah, so much to work with. So, you’ve talked a little bit about the dioramas, but you’ve moved more towards painting, is that right?
TS: I realized that this is where my passion if you will- I mean I had a great time. That was about four years doing the dioramas and the Sleep Factory. Then I thought about how old I am, and that time is going to catch up with me at some point. What do I want to think about what I did on my death bed? This sounds a little morbid, but it isn’t, it’s reality. I wanted to have at least devoted as much time as possible right now, I’m thinking, to painting to see if I can get the work to say what I want it to say. Also, to learn more about what makes a good painting because I feel like I’m always learning, not always succeeding.
LM: That’s totally alright. How do you start a painting would be my question, or what is your process for creating?
TS: I’m fooling around with my process right now, so when I saw that question I was like “eeks.” Often, I’ll start with either a feeling or words sometimes words that I overheard. I want to try and translate that into something that someone else will get something from. Not necessarily the same thing that the input was, so it’s not like I’m transcribing, if you will. I sometimes think it’s a little like poetry, where someone tells you a story, but you’ve got twenty-five other images that have come through while you read these six lines. Although, I’m not very good at poetry. I like reading it, but it’s that kind of process.
It’s hard for me to talk about because I used to start with an image, if you will. I don’t want to paint what I see, or what’s there directly, because that seems like, why not just take a photograph? I know there’s a lot of articles written on why you would or wouldn’t, but I wanted to do more than that.
[I want the paintings to reflect the experience of being in this precarious world.]
LM: Great. Would you say your works are really personal then, or is it a little more broad? Like what you were talking about with climate change, and that kind of subtlety.
TS: Well, they’re personal when I’m making them, but my hope is that it’ll translate into something that is a bit more universal. I mean, I think that’s what all artists want.
LM: Sure, yeah. I was looking at your series, the most recent one, the “Down the Road.”
TS: Oh right, yes.
LM: That was it seemed from your little description that it was really based on your personal experience? I found that really interesting.
TS: Yeah, but I also think that, what I’ve been hearing from people, that people are seeing something in the work that they resonate with too, I’m hoping. I had a deadline for this show, and I just had a year to get ready, which might seem like a lot, but it really isn’t. [I had an experience of being in Vancouver in January when it seemed to rain day and night.] So, I took a million pictures because it felt like such an interesting environment. I’d be pushing this baby and taking pictures. I ended up getting a lot out of the environment I was in. [Somehow the environment translated into a really paintable connection with the kind of nature we find in an urban environment.]
LM: Could you describe for me a little about your personal style? I found that really striking with your website and all your recent works, I would say.
TS: The style of painting you mean?
LM: Sure, or whatever you want to?
TS: Was there something in your head that triggered that question, because that would be helpful.
LM: I suppose so, yes, kind of the imagery, and the way that you handle the landscapes that’s not so photographically accurate, like you were saying.
TS: The thing I’ve look for is the quality of the space that you [experience] from looking at the [painting]. I’m interested in the shapes that are formed through the brushstrokes. I’m also really interested in how the paint is applied because that changes how you read a shape. You know, you could go like this, “dot, dot, dot,” with a big brush, and get a different kind of a tree or grass or hair than you would if you were painstakingly painting every leaf or every hair. So, I’m trying to go to the edge of it being abstract, but still I want people- and this could be my own problem- to feel like they’re in a real space even though it doesn’t look like any [existing] space.
LM: Great. You talked a little about people’s responses to your works, is that mostly from the exhibitions that you’ve done?
TS: Yeah. I mean, sometimes I let people into my studio, but really I don’t want anyone’s feedback when I’m working, because it just messes [my thinking] up. My husband used to think it was so great when people came over, and he would say “you should go and see Trish’s studio.” Then we had to have a conversation about how that would set me back three or four days, because I could hear what people were saying about an unformed, incomplete thing. Of course you can’t see what I’m seeing, so they’re going to say something that isn’t valuable to me or even distracting.
So, I’m interested in the feedback once it’s up on the wall, because I feel like I can then stand back from the work. I’m no longer as personally invested in it, because [then it is as close as I could get and] here it is. … Twice [I have seen] people [look] at my paintings and start to cry in front of them, which has been profoundly disturbing and pleasant at the same time. … In both of those cases I [wondered if] people were responding more to the subject matter or maybe the title than the brush marks, but [I don’t really know].
LM: Yeah, I wanted to touch on the titles a little bit. You arrive at them after the fact?
TS: Sometimes they come at me. I know what [the] title is before I even start [on occasion]. Mostly they come during. I feel like the title is another opportunity to say something to the viewer. I have had titles sometimes that are like a sentence long. Some of my early work I used to take words from poetry and have that as my title. I remember one was “you cannot get there without being there first”, or something like that. I did a whole series of, when I was working, about politics at work. I don’t know if you saw that. [They are a series] of black and white drawings-
TS: They were a biting commentary on working in a corporate environment. So, those titles in retrospect maybe were a little too hard-hitting because they [used corporate speak where] people [are referred to as] resources instead of people [which] I found so disturbing. Now I’m trying to use titles in a more neutral way, so I’ve come to a point where I might say “beach view.”. Now I’m trying to see if the painting itself can say [more] rather than leaning [too] heavily on the title.
LM: Yeah, that’s great. Maybe just to touch on that, I noticed on your website that you don’t include a biography of yourself, and more focus on the images and your exhibitions. Would that follow along those lines of…?
TS: I have a little standard bio, you always have to send a bio out when you apply for shows. To be honest, I don’t know what people will find interesting. I’m trying over here.
LM: No, not a criticism by any means.
TS: No, I know. Do you think it needs a bio? Do you think that would be a good thing?
LM: I found it quite refreshing honestly.
TS: Oh, did you?
LM: Just as my personal opinion.
TS: Lots of the bios are like a stamp. You just say these things. I tried to put something on that website above every body of work to explain a little about what I was doing, because does anybody really care if I went to Emily Carr? I don’t think so.
LM: Certainly for my project, perhaps.
LM: Another ball game, I would suppose, than a website for more of a marketing purpose; I think that would be the right word.
TS: I think it would be great, yeah. It’s worth thinking about, if I could come up with something that I felt was genuine.
LM: You’ve talked a little about the conventional woman artist trope of motherhood versus painting, which maybe is a little too much for….
TS: I always feel like it’s so old, that it doesn’t mean anything. Unless you are a woman in the middle of it, then it’s a different thing altogether. Such a big topic.
LM: Certainly, it is. Are there any projects you’re working on now, or in the future that you want to talk about?
TS: This weird thing has happened over the last month. We just came back from this amazing trans-Mongolian train trip. Just before I left, while I was away, and then within a few days of coming back, three different artists have asked me to collaborate with them on [different projects or pieces] that isn’t necessarily a collaborative piece. So, I sometimes think [that] the universe is telling me to do this.
The one I’m the most excited about, but that’s just because we’ve started, I think, is a friend of mine who I went to art school with. We’ve decided to have a dialogue with landscape as the broad theme, but I think that even perhaps [that theme is] falling away. We’ve put some parameters around the scale of the work. I think [it is] fourteen to twenty-four [inches], so it can’t be bigger than that in any size, and we’re just sending each other digital images of the work, and then the other person responds to the first person’s digital image. It’s really fun.
TS: There’s two other projects that haven’t started yet, but one is with another artist in town. She does mostly abstract work, and I do non-abstract. We’re going to do deliberately try to incorporate abstract elements quite purposefully into my work to see what happens, and she’s going to try to do more representational elements. So, I think it’ll be kind of fun to have it all happen at once. …
LM: Certainly, you never know. You’ve obviously got a lot of artist contacts and friends, all that stuff. How does that come about for you? How do you interact with the local artist community?
TS: I think that, for me I find that I tend to gravitate towards artists. People that I don’t even know [that] are artists, I end up being friends with, and then I realize they’re also doing these [interesting] things. There’s a certain mindset, or approach. I wouldn’t say everybody, but lots of artists, I think, hang out together. I think [it’s] because there’s a way of seeing the world that seems in common. When I first retired, because I had a long career working for the B.C. government, I deliberately set out to inculcate myself within the art community.
The first thing I did was form a crit[ique] group. I asked three other women whose work I really admired if they’d be in a crit group with me.. We met once a month, and two people would present their work, and all four of us would provide comment on it, and those things ended up being those crit groups. This group lasted about a year and a half, or maybe two years. [That group made a positive difference to my work.] So, then there was only two of us left, and we still talk. But, it’s not really the same. So, it’s a deliberate action. I’ve tried to connect with our community on a certain level. You could spend all your time being connected with people and not working.
LM: You’ve talked a little bit about kind of your solo studio and, certainly, it’s part of your process, and it’s very important.
TS: Yeah, and I try to go down there every single day. When I’m really working, I’m down there somewhere between eight and ten hours.
TS: Yes. But, it’s great. If I wake up and think, today is a studio day with nothing else, it’s like “whoa,” which doesn’t always mean I accomplish anything. But, I’m down there staring.
LM: Yes. No, that’s certainly work in and of itself.
LM: And you work a little bit with the Victoria Arts Council then, or you’re connected with them in some way?
TS: I’ve been in some of their shows, and recently, maybe a year ago, I registered to be a member. There’s some really great work going on. I actually don’t know Brin [O’Hare] that well. I’ve talked to her twice on the phone. I was organizing an art show, and I asked if she knew where I could get some [walls which we could rent for] the [space], but I like the energy that she’s bringing to it. So, that was part of the attraction, actually, was that the membership seemed interesting and committed, not just showing up. They were actually doing things. I thought that was great.
LM: Yeah. So, what kind of exhibitions have you done with them, then, more group shows, or…?
TS: Yeah. They have a call, and then I just respond to that.
LM: So, it’s a little different than maybe your most recent show, where it’s kind of a parameter of a set of works?
TS: Yeah. Because I don’t know if you know how this works in the art world, but there’s proposal calls. Lots of the Vancouver Arts Council ones have a theme, [and] either you have something or you want [do] something that can fall under the rubric of [the theme. Then you submit the piece for review.]
But, when you’re submitting to a gallery, then you usually submit a proposal with what you would call a concept, and [some or all of the work]. Most of them want to see up to 10 images. I would say that for every 10 proposals, 20 proposals, you might get one yes back. So, you just kind of have to hang in there.
LM: Yeah. A lot of work, certainly.
TS: It’s a lot of work. Although, it’s gotten a lot easier, because it used to be by paper, and now you can submit online, digitally. So, I can put a proposal together in about an hour and a half now, where it used to be like a day at least.
LM: Yeah. So, you mostly exhibit here in Victoria? Or, you’ve done a little bit on the mainland? That kind of thing?
TS: Yeah. Well, [last summer I showed at the Plaskett] Gallery in New West[minster] and [a few years ago] I had a show in Edmonton. I feel like I’m just starting to show now because when I first retired, which is when I feel like my career started again, I had several shows at Martin Batchelor when it was around. For whatever reason, he would ask me to have shows there. Those were always really great.
LM: Yeah. So you’re looking forward to showing more of your works then?
LM: Okay. Yeah. That’s most of my questions. Maybe we can talk a little bit more about kind of the big picture and of women artist stuff. You’ve certainly mentioned works that you’re working on right now with other women artists and past influences and stuff like that. So, maybe my question would be then, how do you feel your career as a woman artist has evolved? I know that’s daunting.
TS: I don’t know what would’ve happened. When I graduated from Emily Carr, I had just been accepted to have some work in a show at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver. I won [the] Helen Pitt Graduate Award. … I felt like I had a possible career, but I graduated in May and had twins in September.
I remember this moment when I had negotiated with my husband. He was going to watch the kids for a couple of hours, and I’m going to paint. I remember hearing them crying in the other room while I’m trying to paint. I was trying to paint about the joy of motherhood, and I ended up [yelling], “can you keep them quiet!” And at that moment, I thought “I don’t know how this is going to work.”
But, I did always have a studio in my life and I think that’s a really an important thing to do. I had decided that I really wanted to have my first solo show by the time I was 40. I ended it up having it five days before my birthday. I graduated from Emily Carr at the age of 30 and the boys were born three months later. So, there [were at least] 10 years when [a male artist might be] really productive, creative, networking with people. All of that wasn’t happening.I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do everything. … Priorities shift. But, [an art] career for many women ends up being put on hold.
I think I feel lucky, because I’m still, (a) alive, (b) healthy, (c) have the resources to buy materials. I remember being in art school, and [material costs were a real issue].I have the opportunity, I have technology. I can send a CV out. So, I feel like I still have some chances to build a career that would be meaningful, but I don’t know what will happen.
I’ve obviously, without even consciously knowing it, made a choice. … I somehow foolishly imagined that once I had kids I would still be able to paint. I don’t know what I was thinking, not the reality.
LM: Yeah. So, you’ve kind of negotiated that balance, maybe not compartmentalizing, but …
TS: No. No, it is a balance, and I would say that the balance will change from month to month, or year to year. I did have, I think maybe three or four solo shows while the kids were at home and it was good for them [to see me working in the studio and] they really like looking at art [just in a different way]. None of them have gone into the arts.
LM: Yeah. That’s great. Alright, is there any other kind of, pieces that you wanted to talk about specifically?
TS: Like, art pieces you mean?
LM: Yeah. Some of your work. You’re certainly not obligated to, but I was hoping to include a couple of photographs of your work.
TS: Is there anything in particular that kind of caught your eye on the website? Because I can talk, unfortunately, at length about all of them.
LM: Sure. Yes, of course. Yeah, so we’ve talked a little bit about the “Down the Road” series.
LM: So, maybe your favourite one of those or one that you’ve shown, or sold perhaps?
TS: Well, one of my favourites, but it is sold, is The Cricket Field. I really felt like that was closer to where I want to be than some of the others. And, there’s another one that I don’t even know if I put in on that website or on the small paintings one. So, these [paintings] are all in the last year, because I think that’s how we tend to be as artists: the last one or, actually, it’s the next one is going to be the best one. So, yeah, I thought The Cricket Field was something that I felt pretty good about.
There was one I just finished of a pool that I haven’t titled, although I have this idea of part of a title in my head, and I haven’t got it to make sense yet. But, something to do with soles. Like s-o-l-e-s, but also the other kind of souls. I think that’s a pretty good painting for me.
LM: Yeah. Totally. And, you mentioned that one of them had sold. Is that kind of a focus for you?
TS: No. I mean, it’s great when they sell. I’m always happy to sell a painting. I’m always surprised to sell a painting. It can’t be my measure of success, what someone else wants to spend money on. For me this is more about digging inside of myself and seeing what I can put out there so that I end up feeling good about it..
I would say this is something that has been important in my development. I used to always worry about making work … that people who I grew up with would understand. Would my mother [understand] this? Would my aunt like this? I feel like that [notion] held me back for a while, although I do want the work to have an appeal [to individuals who aren’t in the arts].
I don’t mind not showing in galleries. Because I don’t about you, but how many people do you know who actually go to art galleries as something to do for the day? Not that many, right? People look at art where they see it. So, I liked the idea of having it- I mean, I’ve only shown in a few restaurants- somewhere that you [see it as you’re] passing by rather than [only because you have made] a deliberate act of going there. So, when I decided to follow where the work was taking me rather than always worrying about if my aunt would like it, I realized that there’s a different audience, and that’s okay too.
LM: Yeah. That was one of my questions that I had down, kind of the audience of your art. So, that’s maybe changed over time?
TS: It’s changing now, as it were. Yeah, and it’s kind of neat.
LM: And, that would then dictate what you choose to show or exhibit.
TS: Yes. How you choose to make the work, because rather than second guessing if that is a tree, that someone recognizes a tree. Like, is my aunt going to think that pink blob is a tree? I just put it down, because I know that it’s right for the image.
LM: Certainly. Yeah.
TS: My aunt is dead. I mean, it’s crazy.
LM: No. But, it certainly carries with you.
TS: Yeah. It does. It sticks with you.
LM: All that stuff. Right?
TS: Yeah. I heard an author on the radio one time talking about he was going to do his Ph.D. in something, and then he suddenly realized that no one whose opinion he valued would ever be able to [understand his dissertation] and he started to write really [compelling] mystery novels…[instead. He said about his mystery novels], “well, they don’t love them, but at least they can read them.” And that stuck with me for way too long.
LM: The oddest thing is it stuck with you, isn’t it always?
So, it’s your personal kind of exploration, and then you’re showing it to people who may get something out of it.
LM: I’m glad I understood that.
TS: Yeah. You totally did.
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Fuller-Evans, Janaya. “Explore Nature with Artist Trish Shwart.” New Westminster Record, July 10, 2018. https://www.newwestrecord.ca/entertainment/explore-nature-with-artist-trish-shwart-1.23363737.
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“2018 Paintings – Down the Road from Where We Stayed.” TRISH SHWART. www.trishshwart.com/2018-paintings—down-the-road-from-where-we-stayed.html.