Artist spotlight: Sandi Schwert

Paul Karner

When asked why art is important, liberal arts students will often recite an excerpt from an application essay they once wrote or perhaps refer to their favorite Henry David Thoreau quote in an answer entirely logical and for the most part unarguable. However, there are a handful of student artists who will politely smirk and shrug their shoulders as though you’d asked them why breathing is important or something equally preposterous. Sandi Schwert, a senior art major, is one artist who has not lost any sleep over the “why,” but like a true artist, has allowed her life to be consumed with the more elusive “how.”
As a high school student in the rural town of Gays Mills, Wis., Schwert took to her artistic pursuits with the zeal of an artist unconcerned with the looming pulls of academia. She would often spend long nights in the art room over paintings and sculptures and in a number of art classes that she designed herself, yet she claims she “was never really ‘serious’ about art in high school.”
In fact it wasn’t until the end of her freshman year at Lawrence that Schwert decided to get “serious” about art. As a flutist, Schwert soon became disillusioned with the prospect of being solely a music major and began exploring other disciplines in the college as a double-degree student. “I always thought of art as a dead-end major,” Schwert explains, “but I couldn’t deny the fact that I was an artist… It’s my release: if I don’t make art I kind of go insane.”
Sandi’s decision to major in art was not a tough decision, but a logical concession to the artist that had been developing in her for years. And it’s her modest, and very personal, view of herself as an artist that has influenced her approach to art in recent years. Schwert claims that “art, like music, is a language that everyone can understand and speak.” She views the communicative process between artist and audience as a conversation, with equal consideration for the experiences and thoughts both have to bring to a given work. Her work is often inspired by her own personal intuition – a level of sophistication, she feels, is entirely accessible to an audience without being necessarily tied to a distinct concept.
Recently Schwert has a number of paintings and sculptures displayed in a show at Harmony Caf on Oneida Street in Appleton. The paintings include a couple personal “snapshots” of the artist herself and a series of motion paintings inspired by her younger sister. The sculptures are a set of plaster casts of the artist’s chin, neck, mouth, and clavicle covered in wax, which Schwert claims are inviting to the touch but not without a hint of taboo. There will be a closing reception on Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m., complete with refreshments and live music. The reception is free and open to the public, a perfect opportunity for Lawrentians to get a closer glimpse into the mind of this promising Lawrence artist.