In a back porch converted into an art studio in North Miami Beach, Sonya Schwartz painted and sketched when time allowed.
It seems she leaned toward figurative studies of women and children, including her own. In black and white or bold colors, she captured memories and moments in an array of media.
Schwartz studied art at the University of Miami. With six mouths to feed, she took a job as a paralegal but always tried to make time for art while her children played under foot.
“After I retire, I will become an artist,” she said. There was plenty of time; after all, she was still young.
In 1986, at the age of 46, Schwartz died from lung cancer.
“It was a real tragedy because she had such talent,” said Schwartz’s youngest child Hara Allison. And while Schwartz never officially became an artist, she was an artist, and Allison wanted her to have her first art show.
Through May, an exhibit at Barili Cellars, 608 W. Second Ave., called “Like Mother, Like Daughter” will feature the works of Schwartz alongside some of Allison’s paintings. With Mother’s Day coming up, Allison decided that the show would be a good way to pay tribute to her mother. Allison’s 46th birthday is also just around the corner.
“I’m almost 46, the age my mom was when she died, and I’ve been dreading it since I was 18,” she said, adding that she hopes the show will put some of those feelings to rest.
Some of “those feelings” include regret, sorrow, fear and confusion mixed with love and joy in a far from storybook childhood. Alone to navigate adulthood, Allison did the best she could, struggling and learning along the way.
Allison has always doodled and written short stories. She attended Florida International University and received a bachelor’s degree in communications. Her first job was at an advertising agency in Miami. In search of mountains and four seasons, she relocated to Idaho in 1993 and, for the past 20 years, she has been putting her artistic flair onto brochures, mailers, fliers and posters, including designs for the Festival at Sandpoint through her company Studio H Advertising and Design.
Over time, Allison has learned to accept her mother for who she was – a talented and sparkling woman. Allison recently received her mother’s paint brushes, which she displays in a ceramic vessel that Allison made in her youth; a visual reminder of mother and child. Her own acrylic paintings are studies of women and girls, including one who stands at a threshold.
About the show, she explained, “It’s like we’re peers now – on equal footing – rather than me needing from her, I’m sharing her instead.”
Allison will not wait for retirement to expose her artistic nature or her desire to seek beauty among chaos.