This documentary was made to accompany the exhibition Sylvia Fein: Surreal Nature of Sylvia Fein's work at Krowswork Gallery in Oakland, California, taking place January 18-February 22, 2014 (krowswork.com/sylviafein.html). In it, Ms. Fein, born in 1919, details her fascinating life as a painter, first in Wisconsin, then Mexico, and since 1947 in California, accompanied by many photographs of her life and art. But more important than facts, viewers get a chance to glimpse the lively, intense spirit that drives her as an artist and a human.
In the early 1940s, just as Fein was finishing art school in Wisconsin, she was considered one of the most important artists coming out of the Midwest, the star of a group loosely known as the Surrealists of the Midwest. During WWII, she moved to Mexico to paint. And in the years just after the war, her paintings were shown in two Whitney Annual exhibitions and in a solo show at the famous Perls Gallery in New York in the 1940s. In 1947, Fein moved to California and continued to paint. This early work was recently part of "In Wonderland," the groundbreaking exhibition of women in the U.S. and Mexico working in a surrealist vein which took place at the LA County Museum in 2012. In the early 1950s, Fein changed tack, and, unlike the Abstract Expressionists on the East Coast, began working in smaller and smaller formats, while saying more and more--at least as one art critic put it. Her chosen paint medium was egg tempera, and today she still uses this exclusively; she is a master of the art of this difficult type of painting. This exhibition will include several key historic works but it primarily focuses on Fein as a contemporary artist. At 94 years old, Fein still paints every day--now working in larger scale again. Her painting subject matter is still heavily surreal --filled with single eyes, celestial "nothingnesses," and anthropomorphic trees. No longer dependent on the overtly narrative composition of her youth, her recent works are like singular poems--subtle and potent.
Video directed and edited by Robert Beier. Exhibition organized by Jasmine Moorhead, Krowswork Gallery and Travis Wilson, independent curator, in association with Sylvia Fein. For more information visit krowswork.com/sylviafein.html.