Thursday, January 23, 2014

Following Your Bliss - Gary SchwARTz Style

I keep a journal of favorite quotes. A home for all those scraps of paper on which I've hastily written words I want to remember, snippets from newspapers, underlined sentences in books, poetry, prose, graffiti. The first quote I entered, my most favorite quote of all, is by Joseph Campbell.

Some people know what their bliss is early in life; others don't even know they have a bliss to follow until mid-life or after.  Fitting into the latter category and still finding my way as a writer, I'm inspired by others' stories. How did they follow their bliss?  Did Bliss always stay on the lighted path, where directions were clear and footing solid? Or did It sometimes disappear around a curve, up a mountain, or under a stack of rejection letters?

Last week I attended a one-man show by artist Gary Schwartz.

Gary teaches art in the Upper School at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School, and is a friend. He has invited me to tag along on field trips to the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where my art experience has expanded beyond what I know and like. To be an art student in one of his classes is the only reason I would want to be a teenager again!

Gary has followed his bliss as a painter for many years, often disguised as someone else. In an artist's talk at B&M Fine Art Studios, he shared his story.

Aside from a bank security guard disguise, this painter might have still been recognized under a broad artist's hat. At least his other jobs - graphic designer in advertising ("Mad Men" style, as he puts it), origami teacher at the Greenwich Village Children's Aid Society, information guy at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, visitors service assistant at the Museum of Modern Art, and art teacher for 20 years - are in the ballpark.

It was in that one job, where Bliss had no desire to hang out in a bank, that Gary said, "I felt dead inside. Things stopped creatively."

Perhaps it takes those moments, those "depths of despair" moments, to put it a tad too dramatically, that we learn where we truly need to be. The questions, of course, are Do we listen? Do we follow?

Gary did. Following the advice of a co-worker at the bank who said, "Be an art teacher," he quit.

As long as Gary has been connected to art, he has continued to learn, to paint, and develop his own style, within a genre - Photorealism.  A style that one of his co-workers at Léman called "a Schwartz," at the gallery's opening of his current collection.


"B&B Carousel"
(on Coney Island where Gary grew up)

"Chestnut Seller of Rome" 
(inspired by a trip to Rome on his 50th birthday)

(on Coney Island)

Admirers of Gary's art, like me, express a common gratitude that he shares his work with us and the world.  Less selfishly, I applaud him for following his own bliss, for himself first, 
his creative self.

Turning the page in my Book of Quotes, I find one by Mary Oliver, whose quotes could fill my entire journal.

"The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time."

The exhibit runs through January 31st. 
For more information about Gary's story and art, please refer to:
The Léman Manhattan Bullhorn article, "Gary Schwartz, Art Teacher, Discusses His Passion Projects"
Gary's website 

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