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Art & Life with Georgia Schwender

Today we’d like to introduce you to Georgia Schwender.

Georgia, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I am an artist and a curator, seeped in science. In the 1990s, I was employed by Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY as a photographic specialist, mostly darkroom work, supporting science. My technical skills developed here, as well as my interest in science.

Then, in 1995, I was part of a three-person exhibit in the Fermilab Art Gallery at the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia IL, exhibiting “Stem” large format black and white photographs from the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland. I joined the Fermilab Art Gallery’s committee and discovered a community of like-minded individuals. In 2001, I became Curator of the Fermilab Art Gallery and continue to be inspired by artists and scientists.

Curating a gallery and creating art are uniquely different, but are symbiotic in my pursuit of the arts. This keeps me thinking about why people make art, the questions they raise and, sometimes, answer.

Over time, I transitioned from traditional darkroom methods to digital and large format camera to a point and shoot camera and also explored alternative photographic processes.

In 2014, I founded the Artist-in-Residence Program at Fermilab, which enables an artist to have access to places and experiences not usually open to the public in order to create a signature body of work that is displayed in the gallery. It has been very successful, and the community has embraced the concept and artwork.

During the development and progression of the Artist-in-Residence program, it occurred to me, why don’t I apply to other programs?

In July 2017, I was an Artist-in-Residence at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska. It was motivating being on the other side of the process, as an artist, not an administrator. This gave me time to work on my alternative process cyanotypes for my “Prairie Quadrat Study” series. Cyanotypes are one of the oldest forms of photography. Potassium ferricyanide and Ferric ammonium citrate are mixed together to form a photosensitive solution. Most of my cyanotypes are of native tall-grass prairie plants. There are restored areas of the prairie at Fermilab. The once vast tall-grass prairie is two-thirds of its former self and is an endangered ecosystem. I hope that my work will bring light to the beauty and importance of the tall grass prairie in the Midwest.

My latest pursuit is hand building in ceramics. The learning curve is steep, but I have very low expectations, so am finding much joy and freedom in the process!

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality, or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
As an artist, success is created. Success is having the courage to create important art, it’s creating a connection with the audience and building community, and it’s sharing a passion for creativity. Essential to my being and success as an artist is a motivation – whether it’s in the discovery, the artistic process or in the beauty of the final product.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
In a group exhibit, titled “Art & Science, more alike than different” at #201 Gallery Argonne National Laboratory, on display October 1 through December 14. The reception was held last Thursday, October 18th. The title is “Art & Science more alike than different”, with Lindsay Olson and Jim Jenkins both artist-in-residence at Fermilab and Wind Flow Photography.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All photos are mine except the close up photo of me- Reidar Hahn, Distance with my artwork – Michaela Simone

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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