January 20, 2013

Art Review: Gaze into Dorothy Schwartz's moral mirror


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“Tyranny of Numbers” by Dorothy Schwartz.

Jay York Photo

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“Daedalus and Icarus,” by Dorothy Schwartz.

Jay York Photo

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: The Maine Jewish Museum, 267 Congress St., Portland

WHEN: Through Feb. 25

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday, or by appointment

COST: Free

INFO: 329-9854; mainejewishmuseum.org

On one level, Schwartz's overlay of two images seems so simple, but it's not as easy as thesis/antithesis. Instead, she seems to be saying our culture is a complex and multifaceted mirror of ourselves. It's not even that we are shades of gray but, rather, competing and conflicting inclinations, voices and histories. A mirror, she hints, doesn't just show us the present, but the scars of our past and the direction of our future (all reversed -- like prints). Schwartz's leitmotif is the never-still river of life -- gurgle-murmuring but ever effervescent.

Schwartz is never shrill or self-righteous. We are fractured but all-connected in her print collages such as "9/11" -- a dancing modernist labyrinth of torn-paper abstract forms, all threaded together like a jazzy tune.

Even where Schwartz could have been angry, her compassion prevails: "PTSD Bosnia" could seethe in rage about the perpetrators, but we never lose sight of the victims -- who need us. And it is this kind of insight from Schwartz's moral mirror in which we find profound ideas: She helps us understand it is our compassion that gives humanity meaning. It drives our culture to see the world around us. It explains why people and culture are good.

"Evolution" can be a tough show at times, but it's powerful and beautiful -- morally as well as aesthetically -- and well worth a visit.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:



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Additional Photos

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“9/11” by Dorothy Schwartz.


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