Goddesses in Third Ward: Faith Schwartz

Goddesses in Third Ward

Interview by McKenzie Watson
Photos by Alex Barber

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After a 20-year career in hospitality, Schwartz recently started taking classes at Texas Southern University to study painting. “I call this the second half of my life,” she explained with a smile.

“I never really considered myself ‘the artist,’” Schwartz stated, although she has nurtured a lifelong interest in drawing and painting. “I wanted to do something different, something better, something that I’m happy with doing,” she said. “I decided to come back to school because I felt like life could be something more.”  

For her Summer Studios residency, Schwartz created a series of paintings depicting an array of goddesses reimagined as superheroes.

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A divorced mother of three finally pursuing her passion, Schwartz embodies the superheroes she paints. “I’ve always painted women,” she stated, “and I think it’s because I’m a woman who has been through some struggles. You know, the insecurity factor, the feeling that you’re not good enough, that you don’t have any direction of your own – you’re defined by so many other things besides who you are sometimes.”  

The subjects of her paintings are goddesses from a variety of mythos. When asked why she chose to depict them as superheroes, Schwartz explained, “I have a comic book style because that’s how I view women, as these really strong, complex, colorful beings – constantly fighting for a direction, for a word, and once we get it, the goddess in us is released.” 

The goddess is you is the theme of Schwartz’s installation. She painted goddesses culled from mythologies around the world, painted in settings and with details appropriate to their historic associations.

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“At first it was just African mythology, but I decided to open it up,” Schwartz stated. “It’s not just women of color; I view women universally in this way. I’ve opened it up to all races, all nationalities, so that everyone can be honored.”  

Because her subjects have distinct socio-cultural and historical settings, Schwartz extensively researches each goddess prior to starting a painting. “Each goddess that I’m representing, a lot of thought and research is going into it,” she acknowledged. “Even though it’s in a fun way, I still want to connect them to who they are and what they represent.”    

While Schwartz hopes that visitors to her installation will be able to relate to each of the goddesses, one painting in particular stands out in terms of its relevance to the Third Ward. “I want people when they walk through the door to be able to say ‘That’s my community,’” Schwartz explained, “and that’s when I came up with the idea of Ododua in Third Ward.”

Ododua is the goddess associated with Kwanzaa, family, community and good fortune.  Schwartz painted Ododua surrounded by Third Ward landmarks, including Jack Yates High School and Project Row Houses.  “It’ll be really intense; she’ll be praying blessings on Third Ward,” Schwartz explained.

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“The way that they fight for the history and to keep it maintained the way that it is, I think that’s very commendable and to be admired about the residents of Third Ward,” she said. “I really wanted to connect this to them.”  

Faith Schwartz was born and raised on the New Jersey Shore and has been a resident of Houston for the past four years. She is currently enrolled in the Art Program at Texas Southern University. Schwartz is a representational artist who utilizes drawing, painting and collage work as well as vibrant color, texture, and pattern, typically portraying women. 

Schwartz understands that the task of being a woman is a great one and embraces every moment. In her work, she addresses the struggle of self-acceptance in womanhood as a means of female empowerment, believing that women bear the strength to press on and accept themselves in the midst of insecurities. She portrays women as symbols of strength, highlighting style, grace and sexuality.