Phyllis Schwartz is a multi-disciplinary artist and curator who works in photography, ceramics, and publishing. She is an Emily Carr University of Art + Design graduate with a concentration in photography and the recipient of the Canon Photography Award. Her photography has been installed, exhibited and published locally, across Canada and internationally; her works are in corporate, public and private collections. These collections include the Farmboy Collection at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and St. Paul’s Hospital Art Collection. Recent exhibitions include Collaborative Alchemy (with Pierre Leichner and Edward Peck, Amelia Douglas Gallery, NewWestminster, BC), The Formulation of Time (with Edward Peck, Desiree Patterson and Sand Wan at Lipont Gallery, Richmond, BC), Light Sensitive: celebrating prints from the darkroom (Art Intersections, Gilbert, Arizona), Illuminations and Impressions (die Bedürfnisanstalt, Hamburg Germany), and Cascadia (Surrey Art Gallery, Honourable Mention). Schwartz is a contemporary artist making images using the lumen print process. These unique hybrid prints are made by a contact-printing process that leaves traces and shadows on photosensitive surfaces that are digitized. Plant enzymes and atmospheric conditions also interact with the surface to produce unexpected and result on photosensitive paper or sheet film, leaving X-ray like marks of both their shapes and interiors. These impressions of organic forms hover on the cusp of abstract imagery and poetry.



Phyllis Schwartz's Blog

  • Thu, 21 Jul 2022 07:35:12 +0000

    Tis the Season
    Still Winter

    In the great pause, my work has incubated new ideas and new directions and many exhibition opportunities. Cautiously, galleries are putting work on walls and opening doors for artist receptions. This pause has led me to a busy time.

    “Winter kept us warm, covering/Earth in forgetful snow” (T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland). While the landscape lay frozen and on occasion was magically dusted by snow, my eye sought new ways to construct the juxtaposition of harsh light and the snow blanket obscuring the remains of the botanical world. Out my window, a stark snow field on the neighboring roof was an invitation for abstract compositions. On winter walks, spare remains of plant life pierced the snowscape, inviting another abstract. A winter landscape series emerged by combining, juxtaposing, digitally collaging these images. Still Winter is showing in the Sooke Fine Arts Show this summer.

    In April, I spent a month as an artist in residence at the Wallace Stegner House in Eastend, Saskatchewan where I argued with the surprise winter redux, foolishly thinking that the forces of nature can at best be dance partners or choreographers. Luckily, I brought with me a small box of cyanotype chemistry and art paper, which I used to discover how I might make fluid photo-based prints with what remained of winter’s crisp, brittle leaves and branches. In the spare landscape, I discovered new ways to work with botanicals, even if they were desiccated. Three of these prints are showing at Art Intersection (Gilbert, Arizona) at the Light Sensitive 2022 ,an exhibition of images created using traditional darkroom, historical, and alternative photographic processes and methods.

    Fluttering Camilia’s Dream On Edge

    The vast spaciousness of the Saskatchewan prairie inspired me to point my camera to the endless horizon where I saw fields immeasurable. The persistent snow storms transformed the atmosphere and changed what could be photographed hourly. Southwest Saskatchewan is home to innumerable all but abandoned towns and houses, which offered great opportunity for some of my digital collage photography. A Field Immeasurable, one of these photographs is showing at the Metchosin ArtPod in a group show called Field, Fish and Forest: new landscapes.

    A Field Immeasurable
  • Tue, 26 Apr 2022 02:48:25 +0000

    Surprise Winter Redux — an Artist Residency

    We arrived at the Wallace Stegner House in Eastend, Saskatchewan after a three-day journey through the landslides and heavy weather of British Columbia, emerging onto a high prairie and its large skies. The sounds of travel were quieter on the broadly divided highway moving lazily over and around the subtle undulations of the terrain; then we turned onto 21, and the adventure began. Stegner’s Eastend family home on the Frenchman River offered a warm reception. It was well outfitted for our arrival. Everything we needed for a comfortable working stay was there for us. It allowed us to unpack quickly, settle in and begin to work. A few days after our arrival, we were visited by a Surprise Spring Blizzard, a power outage and an unexpected Winter Redux; it was as if they had rolled back the weather to the end of winter.

    Conglomerate Valley (Edward Peck)

    On the second floor was the bedroom with a view of the street and an office equipped with items we might need to work, everything from pencils to a printer. The bookshelves were filled with resource books about the area, literary journals, and writers’ guides of all sorts. Between the two rooms,  a small, well-curated library of books immediately got my attention, months of books, I want to pour through.

    The Frenchman River (Edward Peck)

    We wandered out back and saw that the Frenchman River, so eloquently described in Stegner’s Wolf Willow, was just across the lane. On the other side lay the hillside and the river valley. How can one not be inspired by this setting? Over the next few days Edward began to explore the town during his morning walks, camera in hand, and in the late morning driving the roads that curve out from the centre of the town in all directions. In those curves, the town reaches out into the valleys, coulees, mesas and benches an embracing them and their history.

    Alkali Grass in the Morning Fog (Edward Peck)

    I begin reading to understand the sense of place, foraging through the library, taking in the nuances and history page after page. In the afternoon during our walks, my eyes fixed on the ground, studying the plants and materials, and contemplating what camera-less photographic material I might use to record a sense of this place. It was spare landscape, and the plants were not yet prepared to show a hint of green. Thoughts of Lumen  Printing techniques, photographic papers, sheet film and cyanotype methods mixed with my study of the vegetation. 

    Eastend Grain Elevator

    We walked through the streets of Eastend and took in the various buildings. Later we discovered many had been relocated here and others resurrected, like the Stegner house. On Redcoat Drive and Maple Avenue, businesses housed within buildings that may have served many purpose over the years, and then handed down to the next generation.

    What Remains (wet cyanotype)

    Inside the Stegner House, artists had left paintings on the wall, books on the bookshelves, ceremonial documents and photographs. We could see this was a place where previous residents had created new directions, gathered from previous artists, were cared for by the town, and works had flown forth. We thought we knew the prairies from personal experience and having come of age when classic Canadian writers had created landscape characters in novels and poetry about this expansive, historically layered terrain. 

    Winter Redux (wet cyanotype on lumen print)

    On our creative journey we met guides who took us through Eastend’s historical and geographic paths, sharing the history both written, unwritten and to be written. The more that was absorbed, the more our language moved and changed with the nuances of the town. Embedded in these nuances were tones of knowledge passed down by those who had arrived in the last two centuries and those who had been here before.

    Lucky (cyanotype on Lumen Print)

    During our stay we have been able to open up new artistic avenues to explore, have the foundation to develop a new exhibition, the material to produce a photographic book of our experience and develop skills we intend to pass on to other artists in our teachings. This was made been possible with our residence at the Wallace Stegner House. We are thankful for this opportunity and warmed by the embrace of the Arts Council and the people of Eastend.

    Unnamed/Unprocessed (Wet Cyanotype on Lumen Print)

    Cyanotypes for Processing (Edward Peck)

  • Sat, 24 Jul 2021 07:05:07 +0000


    Reflective Bird is showing in the Sitka Gallery in the 35th Sooke Fine Arts Show, an elaborate online juried exhibition of three hundred works. Reflective Bird is a digital print made from a handmade negative using a Lumen Print process. The Sooke Fine Arts Show is the longest running juried fine arts show on Vancouver Island.

    The Magic of Photography without a Camera, my online artist talk (25 July, 7pm PDT), will explain the history of early photographic experiments that inform my artist practice. I will talk and illustrate elements of my hybrid printmaking process. Registration is free.

    The exhibition is online thru 02 August. Check out all of the work and more events here.

  • Sun, 25 Apr 2021 06:07:50 +0000

    Daffodil Onboard ( Mixed media digital collage)

    I make abstract compositions that emerges from spontaneity and improvisation in the composition process. I grapple with ideas that move away from object-based art. Real objects are transformed into abstractions in the printmaking process, and new forms appear to me. When I look again, I might see another image and come to realize that abstract, spontaneous art allows the breathing space for what eluded my eye when I first began with organic materials, placing them on photosensitive material to record impression. Through my exploration of materials, I hope to invite viewers to bring their own experience to my artwork and inspire questions that drive viewers into their imaginations to make meaning for themselves .

    Two of my remastered abstract compositions are included in Propeller Art Gallery’s Altered Images At Hand, an online exhibition exploring physical manipulation in photographic work. This exhibition presents artists’ works that combine photographic elements altered through photo-collage and other manual techniques of physical modification including cutting, painting, texturing, layering, distorting, and more. It is through this creative intervention of the artist’s hand that new contexts and expressions become evident.

    These two prints were not intended as mixed media photography or mixed media lumen prints. The original was a medium-format, sheet film lumen print of a daffodil composition, which had been left on a drying rack. Two days later, when I returned to the studio, I found that someone placed a sheet of newspaper on the silver-gelatin side of the print while it was still wet. Some of the newspaper lifted easily, and what remained obscured most of composition. I scanned both sides of the negative, processed it using digital processing software, and moved on to another project. Recently, this sheet film lumen print regained my attention as an altered image, and I re-explored it using iPhone/iPad photo editing apps to rediscover that there was more to this mixed media sheet film image. One app made a double exposure possible.

    Altered Images At Hand
    A Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Virtual Exhibition
    28 April — 28 July 2021

    Saturday, 01 May, 3—5PM EST
    Eventbrite Registration
    Registration closes on May 1st @ 11 AM
    (Zoom link will be emailed after closing)​

  • Wed, 31 Mar 2021 06:56:25 +0000


    A sabbatical year: with an exhibition schedule erased by the Pandemic, I was afforded an opportunity to reframe my art practice. I’ve enjoyed the quietude of a year away from the frenzy of getting work to shows and keeping up with all the details along the way. All things considered, it’s been a restorative year, but I’ve missed what in-person events and people bring to my artist practice.

    Throughout the Pandemic, my work at YVR (Gate 40) has been showing to those few who are taking local flights in BC. Likewise, NorthVan Arts continued to be available for art rentals and online gallery theme exhibitions.

    Bloom 12 Transplanted, a Coast Collective group exhibition at ECAH (Esquimalt Community Arts Hub) Gallery, put work on the wall and invited in the public. It was apt to see art in Bloom after what seems like a long year of art hibernation .

    The Juan de Fuca Art Space currently displays work by Coast Collective members, where four of my lumen prints are on show through the end of May. The Pandemic advanced the capacity of the online and digital realm, but after a cyber year, I find myself craving hands-on art making, the materiality of an art exhibition and safe, masked in-person art conversations. It feels like a spring awakening: tentative, cautious, promising.

  • Thu, 28 Jan 2021 07:36:53 +0000


    Available online at blurb.

    Spent bouquets, living sculpture and and botanical photogenic drawings spark a visual alchemical gallery conversation. Edward Peck’s large format scan grams, Pierre Leichner’s wheat grass sculpture and Phyllis Schwartz’ lumen prints toured five Vancouver Lower Mainland galleries during 2019 and 2020. They are artists whose practices contemplate the full cycle of natural growth and transitions that are in an ever-changing state. They use plant- based materials to create works of art that speak to issues of permanence and impermanence. They are choreographers and arrangers who have manipulated natural materials into compositions that challenge the viewer to contemplate time, form, and the ephemeral. Now a selection of their work is bound in book form with a gallery essay and artist statements. This Sassamatt publication is available in the blurb bookstore.

    Natural Alchemy, the first group exhibition, opened in early 2019 at Cityscape Community ArtSpace in North Vancouver. Then in April, Schwartz and Peck presented their work at the Lipont Gallery in Richmond, in a group exhibition under the name Formulation of Time in conjunction with the Capture Photography Festival. In late summer, Collaborative Alchemy then opened at the Outlet Gallery in Port Coquitlam. During this exhibition, all three artists provided workshops and presentations on their process and techniques. In November, the exhibition opened at the Amelia Douglas Gallery in New Westminster; during this show, the artist held seminars for individuals studying Fine Art. Finally in January, all three artists exhibited Collaborative Alchemy Plant Based Visual Art at Place des Arts Gallery in Coquitlam, where workshops were also presented.

    Pierre Leichner, Edward Peck and Phyllis Schwartz are artists whose practice contemplates the full cycle of natural growth and transitions that are in an ever-changing state. They use plant-based materials to create works of art that reflect states of permanence and impermanence. They are choreographers and arrangers who have manipulated natural materials into compositions that challenge the viewer to contemplate form, time, and the ephemeral. Hybrid prints by Phyllis Schwartz are made by a contact printing process that leaves traces and shadows on photosensitive surfaces. Her lumen prints engage viewers on a primal level to look again and make their own meaning from ambiguity. Pierre Leichner uses plant roots and moulds in an exploration of our relationship with nature and the beauty of the life cycle. In his work, the roots of plants become sculptural forms. Edward Peck’s photography addresses the symbolism of flower arrangements and the transformation of meaning when they are discarded. He explores the beauty that extends beyond our utilitarian use of these obsolete floral arrangements.

  • Sat, 02 Jan 2021 07:40:29 +0000


    Consistently, I walk where I can contemplate the horizon. Consistently, I focus on a distant, theoretical line where Earth and Sky meet. Consistently the illusion of a dividing line is inconsistent, depending on atmospheric conditions. Juxtaposing these horizons amplifies the inconsistencies of colour, texture, and visibility. Considering the uncontrollable inconsistencies of a place where I encounter the furthest point my eye can see, my camera shows me what encounters me. Each encounter is an ironic challenge to compress spaciousness and infinity into two dimensions, transformed into a continuum.

    New Year’s Day calls for something new on my website, something auguring an auspicious year. Check out my new Horizon page. Setting my sights on the horizon. Like the horizon, this is a series with no end in sight.

  • Tue, 03 Nov 2020 07:42:53 +0000

    THE AFTERMATH — or how these photographs came to happen

    I am at Telegraph Cove to see what remains of yesterday’s fierce wind storm that roiled the ocean and chased me into a warm retreat. I walk to this cove beach as a ritual. I am drawn here as if pulled by an earth magnet. It is a spiritual, therapeutic and spectacular place. Here is where the first Hudson’s Bay dock was built in the 1850s, followed by the first telegraph line to the San Juans in 1861 and after that, an explosives factory in 1895. This 150 metre shoreline is layered with history, and beyond that, is something mystical about the geography and geology. Locals moor their boats in the bay; kayakers paddle in from the sea; children and dogs run across the beach — and all of this disturbs the serenity. I try to erase these distractions as I try to find a new photograph in my viewfinder. I am happiest when I am alone at this beach. There are always active clouds painting the sky, but much more fascinating are the colours that settle along that an imperceptible horizon line, which tints the distant water. I am here now because yesterday was unfinished: the wind was icy cold and the sun was so glaringly bright that I could see neither near nor far without prolonged transitions as my eyes adjusted to changing light. 

    Yesterday, I watched the churning ocean, breaking waves and clear sky as long I could, but conditions were inhospitable. Today, I expected a calmer version of yesterday. Instead of high tidal waves charging the shore, I am first greeted with a smell of aging seaweed not common at this cove. The closer I walk to where the ramp gives way to a rocky beach, the more a green, seaweed carpet reveal itself. Next I see massive heaps of tangled bull kelp the likes of which I have never seen. I frequently scavenge beaches for seaweed to make Lumen Prints. I have seen one or two such tangles deposited on beaches at Tofino, but this is a massive sea harvest. Ironically, there is a serious sign riveted to one of the parking blocks forbidding the removal of rocks, sand, plants and seaweed from the beach. No camera-less photography for me today. 

    For a few minutes, I stand still on a solitary, surreal landscape. I have come to photograph churning water and frothy waves crashing the beach. Not only are white-caps and agitated waves hitting the shore, but also there is the aftermath of a plundered kelp forest strewn across the foreshore: an unanticipated photograph to process. The churning sea brought ashore holdfasts larger than dinner plates, ochre coloured bull kelp stipes more than two metres in length, and crimson tinged blades torn asunder. This reconfigured kelp forest is a story composed in Asemic script for me to decipher. Randomly placed sea-tangle sculptural forms rise from this beach-scape. Between these forms are logs carpeted with green matter that had been repurposed. A sense of arctic air penetrates my windbreaker. I am not long for this visit despite the bright sun attempting warm a calmer day. I cannot leave without documentation. And so my camera lifts to my eye, and I survey what is at my feet and then pan the green carpeted shore until I find an entrance. I start where I always start: in search of lines and massing, defocussing so I can compose within the frame of the camera, isolating out what distracts from the element that is the part of the whole but stands on its own. I am not thinking in words now; I am drifting, teetering, prowling and dancing between forms of unearthed kelp forest deposits. Focussing on the holdfast attached to a stipe I follow its curve as it snakes its way to the ball float with a few limp blades draped on small rocks. I am reading the writing as I move to find abstract forms, hoping to decipher what was written as an epilogue to a wild ocean event. I am reading the writing as I move to find abstract forms, hoping to later decipher what was written as an epilogue to a wild ocean event.

     The elements are closing in on my stamina, and I am not aware that I am no longer looking through my camera. In retreat, I imagine the hash tags I will include when I post this photograph on Instagram. Wordsworth’s daffodil poem comes to mind. This middle school poem celebrates spring in all its blossoming glory until the final stanza, which reveals the poet’s creative process. Wordsworth was an inveterate walker. He took his walking seriously: his walks were the source of his poetry, and he relied on his post-walk memories and meditations (“in vacant or in pensive mood”) to create the sensation that brought him words to craft. Wordsworth regarded his walks as the seeds of future poems. I am chilled to the bone and hastening to the warmth of home. More so, I am in a hurry to get to my desk where I can preserve what remains in my memory. My mind shifts again. I think about the word poet, which derives from the ancient Greek word poietes, meaning maker or inventor. Now it all comes together as I sit down to record the sensations, and as a maker using words, I craft images, editing out half-memories and discarding fragments because I cannot include everything, editing as I do in my viewfinder. Here it all comes  together for me, and in my own Instagramatic practice, I seek to accompany my image posts with a series of hashtags that if laid out on a page would read as a haiku.

    #fiercewind #roilingsea
    #autumnharvest #washedashore
    #greencarpeted #beach

    For oft, when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
    They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
    And then my heart with pleasure fills,
    And dances with the daffodils.

    I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
    William Wordsworth

  • Tue, 06 Oct 2020 06:41:49 +0000


    “light “ an exhibition juried by Richard McCabe, is showing at A Smith Gallery (02 October through 15 November) with a Facebook Live Reception on 31 October (4PM/CST). Active Pass Drama is included in this dynamic conversation of arresting photographic works.

    Saturday, October 31, at 4pmCST the A Smith Gallery will be doing a Facebook Live ArtWalk with the gallery directors. There are several ways to find the event on Facebook. Follow the A SmithGallery the gallery on Facebook, and a message will appear on your screen saying the live event has started. Or go directly to the gallery Facebook page at 4pm and watch. To see the exhibition…. click here. To visit the gallery on-line store for purchase information…. click here.

    Evening light has been a special interest of mine this summer. My eye is drawn to how light settles on the edge of Pacific Ocean horizon. At times, the horizon line is elusive, perhaps invisible, and without landmarks, it is nonexistent. Usually there is contrast between sea and sky: the sea is calm and the sky offers a momentary dramatic flare as the sun slips over the horizon.

    Long ago, someone began to call camera work photography: writing with light. Often I experience my photography in that medium, but Active Pass Drama and other works from this series are painterly. These dramatic, painterly moments are ephemeral as light eases beyond an undefinable edge of time.

    Gallery catalogue is forthcoming.

  • Sat, 05 Sep 2020 22:03:32 +0000


    North Van Arts is open to the public again, and so is North Van Art Rentals. They are one of the fortunate organizations that have survived Pandemic closures and so much social isolation. It is a personal blessing because in May and June, I watched my exhibition, workshop, and teaching events erase from my calendar. North Van Arts miraculously maintained an online Art Rentals Exhibition, and now they are open to the public again for purchase and rental with some protocols in place.

    The Art Rental Show is open to the public (sorry, no reception) during Cityscape Community ArtSpace gallery hours starting 11 September through 10 October. On display, Salon-style, are selections for the Art Rental Collection including three by Phyllis Schwartz and three by Edward Peck. This exhibition is an opportunity to dwell in an exhibition space created by proficient artist s — a conversation of natural and urban landscapes, abstracts, florals, and experimental compositions.

    Once again, North Van Art Rentals is open for business, and viewers can now rent or Buy More Art.

    • Deep Confusion (Edward Peck)
    • Longevity
    • Seeding the Wind (Edward Peck)

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