Phillip Schwartz | Arte Laguna World

Interviewing Phillip Schwartz | An history from Germany to USA

Phillip Schwartz is from the metropolitan New York area. He attended the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, where he was awarded one of the prestigious travelling scholarships given to winners of the Fifth Year Competition along with a show at the Museum of Fine Art. He has shown at galleries in Boston, Provincetown and New York.

Let’s start from the beginning. How did you choose to become an artist? what was the first step that made you realize this had to be the right path in your life?

I wanted to be an artist from the time I was a child. I was always drawing and making things. My schoolbooks were all covered with drawings and by the time I was twelve I had decided that I would go to art school. As a kid I tried a lot of different mediums I loved to work with clay and to paint, and I loved to make jewellery. Maybe that’s why I’m not afraid to use many different mediums as a mature artist.

Photos of the last installation which was at a church in Hudson, NY.

“I had always wanted to do an installation in a church because so much of my work refers to Christian iconography. I was very happy when they agreed to allow me to install my work there and open it to the public for three weeks. All the Banners I made specifically for this installation as well as the frontals on the altars. It was received very well.”


You have been selected as Finalist for Arte Laguna Prize 18th Congratulations! What prompted you to apply to Arte Laguna Prize? How did you feel about being selected and get to exhibit in Venice? Is this going to be the first time?

Of course, I’m very excited and I feel very honoured and lucky to have been selected as a finalist this year. My friend Beth Krensky is a past the winner of the Arte Laguna Prize in performance art and her encouragement was the reason I applied.  This is my second time applying to the Arte Laguna Prize. I applied for the 17th edition, and I received an honourable mention, so I tried again.

What advice do you have for artists considering entering the Arte Laguna Prize competition in the future?

I would say to any artist who is thinking about applying to the Arte Laguna Prize that they should go ahead and do it! There is no downside to entering and there are a lot of advantages for artists who make the decision to enter.

Seeing your works you have used many different techniques in your life, starting from Sculpture and then diving into painting, and now the quilting. Is there a specific meaning for this? How and when did you start to use this artistic way to create your artworks?

I like to have the flexibility to use different mediums to make different pieces and to express different emotions or ideas. When I was making sculpture for instance, I did a lot of work with found objects but sometimes I couldn’t find the right object and so I would create a “found” object to use in the piece. That led me to start making other work that could express my ideas better than using objects that I could find. When I have an idea that I can’t express in the medium I’m using, I learn to use which ever medium I think will help me to express myself in a way that feels truest to my original idea.

I see that you use many different colours in your works. For example, Passion Fruit, which is the artwork that’s going to be exhibited in Venice is more of a grey-ish fabric that Sara Quilt o Sleeping Lovers. How do you elaborate or choose the use of colours?

My use of colour is primarily influenced by the subject matter and the material but in this case with Passion Fruit I wanted the lines to be the focal point of the piece more than the colour. I tend to be drawn to vibrant colours but here I chose this light grey that allows the stitching to take centre stage. What I did do though was use different colour threads in the quilting so that each element of the quilt is quilted in its own distinct colour. In the sleeping Lovers quilt I wanted to be especially playful with colour because I wanted this piece to be very whimsical and fun which is a huge departure from the usual tone of my work which is often very serious as in the Sara quilt where I used the vibrant colours both to draw the viewers eye and to express the flame of that she would ultimately be consumed by. I also used some very colourful, floral fabric to make the letters which spell out the infamous Nazi lie that was spelled out in wrought iron on the archway of the gate into Auschwitz, “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which in English translates to, work will make you free.

Speaking of feelings and themes: you face profound and specific concepts through your artworks, and what you’re presenting it’s really deep and meaningful. How do you approach such themes?

My work touches on some very difficult topics. They are all topics that have affected me in some way either as part of my family history or from my personal experience. I approach it in a very personal and subjective way, putting myself into the piece, often literally as in many of my self-portraits in which I’m a stand in for a relative who was killed in the holocaust or in the No! quilt which is about my own history of being bullied and abused when I was a boy. I believe that the more personal artwork is the more universal it becomes because when an artist is willing to be completely honest and vulnerable the viewer relates to the work on a very basic human level.

Curiosities about Passion Fruit

I first decided to make Passion Fruit when the government of Uganda was debating whether to pass a law which would impose the death penalty on homosexuals. (They have since passed that law.) I began to do some reading about the criminalization of homosexuality around the world. I was shocked to learn that sixty-seven countries have laws making same sex relations between consenting adults illegal. When I made the quilt the most recent statistics available were from 2022, and sadly the number of countries where homosexuals can be sentenced to death is now higher than it was in 2022. These statistics don’t include countries where honour killing of gay relatives is practiced or where LGBTQ people are murdered routinely without consequence, so the numbers on the quilt are very conservative. While today there may only be six countries which publicly state that capital punishment is the sentence for homosexual conduct, the reality is that being gay will get you killed in many more countries than just those six. The murder of LGBTQ people is an international crisis.

He has shown at galleries in Boston, Provincetown and New York. Most recently he was included in a group show in Berlin, Germany at the Institut fur Alles Mogliche, which was unfortunately closed early due to the pandemic. He currently Lives in New York’s Hudson Valley where he continues to produce and exhibit his artwork. He has shown his work with groups of artists which promote social justice and HIV awareness in local, national and international venues.

Schwartz has currently exhibited six of his artworks I currently have six pieces in an exhibition in Buffalo, NY, a collection called The Power of Resilience and Hope – Photography and The Holocaust.
The artist has been selected by the jury of Arte Laguna Prize, and will exhibit “Passion Fruit” in Arsenale Nord, Venice from November to December 2024.