A Life in Art

During a visit to Beth Ames Swartz’ secluded Paradise Valley home/sanctuary/studio, her base of operations for the past 45 years, the nationally recognized and renowned artist enthusiastically described her latest project.

She is the subject of a soon-to-be-released documentary about her life in art. Titled “Beth Ames Swartz/Reminders of Invisible Light,” the 26-minute, not-for-profit film is being produced by Odyssey Film of Cave Creek and will be previewed in the Valley in a few months. The title, Beth says, “is ambiguous enough – it could mean our relationship to God and/or the light within all of us.”

The phrase relates to Beth’s first 40 years of artistic output and ties in with a collectible volume with the same title that was the inspiration for a 2002 retrospective of her work at the Phoenix Art Museum.

The film, now in post-production, will be available on a national level to public broadcasting stations and to local and national groups and organizations. It reflects the message and works of art in her book and reinforces Beth’s lifelong philosophy: to seek wisdom and to help others.

Edna and Art Sitelman recently hosted a wine and cheese reception at their North Central home to honor Beth, to preview the documentary’s trailer (a five-minute “sizzle reel”) and to encourage membership in the Phoenix Sister Cities Ramat Gan Committee, where Beth serves on the board. The event also launched the Indiegogo Internet film campaign under its fiscal sponsor, the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, to raise funds for documentary post-production.

Beth’s initial artistic foray came about as early as age 5 with her first paint set. She eventually attended New York’s prestigious High School of Music and Art in addition to Cornell University “to take every available art course.” She earned a master’s degree in fine arts from NYU.

But she credits a rafting trip down the Colorado River 55-plus years ago with “an inspirational breakthrough – a connection of art and the earth.”

When she moved to Arizona from New York (with her first, late, husband) Beth says she initially “hated the harshness” of the desert terrain and missed the lush Eastern greenery. She sought out local parks and lakes seeking a comfort level. It was then that she perfected a series of watercolors. But her life changed, she says, on the 1970 river trip. “I always have been a feminist,” she says. “I bonded with the earth, and was able to fuse an emotional experience with my artistic output.” With paints and sketchbook at hand, Beth recalls “drawing the entire trip, coming to the realization that up until that time, I hadn’t even begun to deal with the cycle of life, death and rebirth, and burning away what is transforming.”

This concept, along with visits to 10 sacred sites in Israel and the study of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, culminated in her Fire Series, premiering in 1981 at the Jewish Museum in New York and nine other museums nationwide. “It was the transforming power of fire that inspired me,” she says.

Through the years Beth says her art has helped her to survive and thrive. “I was raised in a home where the basic values of empathy, compassion and love were stressed. This led me on the path to discover my role and purpose in the universe.” Scattered throughout the home she shares with husband John Rothschild is a collection of Buddhas. “I appreciate their serenity,” Beth says.

Valley collector Edna Sitelman observes that Beth’s paintings “are a testament to her belief in the healing and restorative power of art … to challenge our perceptions – to awaken the soul.”

Completion of the documentary is anticipated in February, in time for Beth’s 80th birthday. Attractive, energetic and articulate, she is an embodiment of her philosophy: “Whatever you do in life, do it creatively.”

Beth will be available for personal appearances and documentary showings for Valley groups and organizations. For information, contact her at info@bethamesswartz.co

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