National Museum of Women in the Arts
Susan Schwalb
February 26 1944 - present
Photograph of Susan Schwalb, by Kelly Baisley, courtesy of the artist
Place of Birth:
New York
Work Type/Media:
Books and manuscripts, Drawings and prints, Painting, Sculpture
Artistic Role(s):
Abstraction, Minimalism
Artist's Biography:
Susan Schwalb is one of the foremost figures in the revival of the ancient technique of silverpoint drawing in America. Most of the contemporary artists who draw with a metal stylus continue the tradition of Leonardo and Durer by using the soft, delicate line for figurative imagery. By contrast, Schwalb’s work is resolutely abstract, and her handling of the technique is extremely innovative. Paper is torn and burned to provide an emotionally free and dramatic contrast to the precise linearity of silverpoint. In other works, silverpoint is combined with flat expanses of acrylic paint or gold leaf. Sometimes subtle shifts of tone and color emerge from the juxtaposition of a wide variety of metals. In recent works, Schwalb abandons the stylus altogether in favor of wide metal bands that achieve a shimmering atmosphere reminiscent of the luminous transparency of watercolor.

Schwalb was born in New York City and studied at the High School of Music & Art, and at Carnegie Mellon University. Memories of light have been a recurrent source for her work; travels to Arizona and New Mexico, for example, suggested some of the colors and shapes in paintings called “Mesa”, and other works clearly owe something to the light on the Hudson River as viewed from a studio on the West Side of Manhattan.

Schwalb’s oeuvre ranges from drawings on paper to artist books and paintings on canvas or wood panels. Many of these panels are carefully beveled so that the imagery seems to float off the wall.

Other Occupation(s):
Teacher, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA (1961-1965)
Related Visual Artists:
influenced by Isabel Bishop influenced by Paula Gerard
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Artist's Grant, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Sweet Briar, VA, USA (2007) Artist-in-Residence, Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Jerusalem, Israel (1994) Artist-in-Residence, Tel Aviv Artists' Studios, Tel Aviv, Israel (1994)
Earliest exhibition:
Works on Paper: Women Artists, The Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY (1975)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Book As Art X
Insomnia: Landscapes of the Night
Artist retrospective(s):
The Creation Series: Fifteen Years of Silverpoint, Yeshiva University Museum, New York, NY, USA (1990)
Echoes Redoubled, 2007
Incident in the Mist #6, 2007
Strata #436a, 2007
Strata #438, 2007