“I like artists and scientists,” Linda Schwartz told me. We were seated at the dining table in her art-filled house, with tea and a barely touched plate of cookies, talking about her career in art. The other two occupants of the house, a pair of small but stocky, very vocal black dogs, had been shushed and enticed away but turned up now and then to add a few barks to the conversation.
Artists and scientists, who share a broad curiosity about many things including shapes and color and objects in relation to one another, are not surprising people for someone like Schwartz to be drawn to. Her career in the art field has been as an artist herself and as a dealer in artists’ works, which makes for an interesting viewpoint on what’s happened in the art market in recent decades.
Schwartz’s own career is a telling reflection of those happenings. She has gone from what she calls brick and mortar gallery to functioning entirely on line, through a project launched in April of last year. All the customer needs to do is type in either of two web sites and survey the inventory.
The web site http://www.alternateprojects.net/ is her own, altered and updated whenever changes warrant. The other, http://www.artsy.net/alternateprojects.net, is a listing featuring work from many galleries and has, inevitably, greater readership. Before settling down to talk we had gone up the stairs in her tall, thin, 19th century row house in Covington’s Historic District to the room where she keeps inventory and which is her site for working. We looked at some of the art objects there, many of them small. Item: wooden postcards, made by artist Jenny Holzer in the 1980s. “I have a passion for multiples, for ephemera, and for work that doesn’t look like art,” she told me.
Her computer, compact and portable, vital to her business, is of course located there. “In 1989 I first began using a computer,” she said, with a small shake of her head as though she couldn’t think of not using it.
Early on, at the beginning of our current century, Schwartz had had her own gallery. Although she closed the gallery itself in 2004, she continued working with corporate clients. When Foto-Focus came into being in 2010 she became part of that team, working on programing and other aspects as curatorial and administrative manager. “A really intense job,” she said. “A lot of work.”
From Foto-Focus she went on to become part of the staff at Carl Solway Gallery, from 2013 to 2016. “Not quite the right fit for me,” she said, “but I did learn a lot. It gave me a fuller picture of the art world.” In the meantime, she was establishing relationships and a presence in the Louisville art scene that resulted in the city’s co-op gallery, Zephyr.
Zephyr’s mission statement says it is “to serve as a platform to incubate, advocate, and facilitate innovative ideas in art and artistic practices in the region.” An ongoing “Project” series began in 2014, with curated, proposal-based exhibitions as well as collaborations with universities, colleges, and cultural institutions. A varied series has resulted.
For example, from June 3 to August 21 in the summer of 2016 Zephyr Gallery’s “Project 13, Re-Place” spread out of the gallery itself to the streets and public spaces of Louisville with surprising, witty, thought-provoking installations that bore out the project’s subtitle: “Misbehaving in the City.” An element of this venture included people in parking lots pretending to be the demarcation lines. They were to align their bodies with individual lines in a move “to interact with an often-overlooked part of their every day environment.” Artist Tracy Featherstone’s goal was for the participants to “absorb the trials and tribulations of a line that is bound to a singular place.”
The artists involved came primarily from Cincinnati but also included individuals from Chicago, from Hamilton, from Cleves, from Louisville itself, and a Netherlands-born artist now resident in Cincinnati. Steven Matijcio, whose day job is curator at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, joined Schwartz as co-curator for Project 13, an ambitious undertaking. She says of this venture “the artists worked with me but it was mostly my job. I’m still really proud of what we did.”
What they did is documented in a large folder that acts as a catalog for Re-Place. It includes a long-ish essay on the show (in very small print) and describes installations that would encourage smiles and thought – not always an easy join. Among pieces I would like to have seen were the impractical awnings produced by Keith Benjamin, a professor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Made of denim and broomsticks and too small for efficient sun-shielding, they were explained by Benjamin as “meant to reevaluate materials and objects through fragmentation and rearrangement.” Featherstone, who is based in Hamilton, in addition to her parking lot considerations altered a sleeping bag to become something she called “Building Snuggle,” although its photograph shows it snuggling with a tree along a Louisville sidewalk. The Unsanctioned Sign Company produced six free standing mobile signs, a gallery kiosk and takeaway print materials. Close readers of the Re-Place folder can discover that the Unsanctioned Sign Company is in fact the artists Aaron Walker, Chicago, and Nick Swartsell, Cincinnati.
The Louisville connection continues for Schwartz. A show opening in April at KMAC (Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts) will highlight the record collection, including record covers, of Michael Lowe. Schwartz cataloged the collection and will be involved in its showing at KMAC, she said.
As we talked the dogs appeared again, making barking comments, wanting to be seen. Their breed is Schipperke, Schwartz told me when I asked. She has had them for a decade or so and remains in her multi-story row house partly because of them, she said. The house itself is a pleasure to be in. White painted walls make the interior light and bright and are enlivened by art both hung and added directly to the wall. Schwartz herself, with her pale hair worn long and black clothes enlivened by a glimpse of sheer, flowered stockings, appears as a fitting proponent of today’s art market in its increasingly important location. Online.