If you own one of her paintings or drawings or collages or prints you should be thankful.
Has she reinvented painting like Braque and Picasso or Pollack and de Kooning? Not to that extent.
Has she created a unique body of work? Absolutely.
Is it all first rate? You bet.
Could I live in a house where the walls were hung with only her art? I’d love to be given that opportunity.
Can she live off her art? Minimally, with periods of much struggle and financial angst, for someone who has never cared for material things or owned much more than old men’s clothes to work in (paint, print, etc.) and a few party dresses in the old days.
She spends all her money on materials for her art, and the renting of climate controlled storage spaces for it (for the volume of her creativity she should be renowned, not even counting its quality), and whatever sparse living quarters she happens to be occupying, and for phone calls to buyers and other parties interested in her art, and to her friends for support.
She is the most dedicated creative person I have ever known, as well as the most unique, (not to mention a great friend for the past forty years).
When she still worked as a waitress in the old Howard Johnson’s in Times Square, where she befriended various musical creators dropping in between sessions on MTV around the corner, I kept expecting some perceptive writer to do a profile on her for The Talk of the Town section of THE NEW YORKER, or some human interest story in THE DAILY NEWS, or critic to discover her in the Arts section of THE NEW YORK TIMES.
But all she did was slave in that joint to pay for her one room crib in Queens, or wherever, and the storage space for thousands of prints and collages and watercolors and paintings and drawings, just the ones she kept in Manhattan.
Like a lot of us, she has trouble playing whatever game is seemingly necessary at the moment to be noticed or accepted or elevated to the attention of those few—and they grow fewer with every passing day—who control what most of us get to see or hear about that’s going on in the “arts” let alone the world (doesn’t it always amaze you, as it does me, that with all the channels we now get, the news stories always seem to be the same ones, or variations on the same theme for the day?).
But whatever the reason, or reasons, for her relative obscurity (and I’m as guilty as anyone, I just went back and added her to my “women artists” list because she is my favorite woman artist period and somehow I left her off when I first made that list) in terms of the greatness of her art, those who know anything about creativity, especially painting and drawing and collaging and printing, know Sylvia Schuster deserves a place in the pantheon of the great creative forces of our times.
She’s in mine.