Sonja Sweterlitsch’s Beautiful Dreamers
Tonight marks the opening reception for a new exhibit at Fe Gallery titled “Beautiful Dreamers”, which takes place from 7-11PM at the Lawrenceville gallery. Sonja Sweterlitsch, a Pittsburgh-based artist set out to honor sixteen young women she believes are making an impact in Pittsburgh, most of whom find themselves in an arts-based profession, but there are also a few entrepreneurs and professionals as well. Influenced by painters as diverse as John Singer Sargent, Gustav Klimt, Lucien Freud, and Cecillia Beaux, Sweterlitsch says, “I’m inspired by the beauty I see in other people.” We decided to ask Sonja a few questions about what it was like to meet her subjects and how the creative process inspired her.
The picture above is just a sample of what to expect at Sonja’s exhibit. The full list of Beautiful Dreamers includes:
Julia Erickson, Principal Dancer, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater
Tara Gainfort, Arts Advocate
Heather Hackett, Manager, Gateway Center Crazy Mocha
Casey Hanner, Lead singer of Donora
Kathryn Heidemann, Director of the Master of Arts Management Program at Carnegie Mellon University
Joy Ike, Singer-songwriter, voted Pittsburgh City Paper’s “Best Solo Artist” for the fourth year in a row
Dr. Cindy Lisica, Adjunct Professor, Dept. of East Asian Languages & Literatures, University of Pittsburgh; Project Archivist, Andy Warhol Museum
Kellee Maize, Rapper; Founder and C.E.O. of Nakturnal
Toby McHenry, Biologist
Laura Miller, “Secret Agent L,” the international kindness movement
Nami Ogawa, Designer and Founder of ZETO clothing
Katie O’Malley, Host of Pens TV, Pittsburgh Penguins
Larkin Page-Jacobs, Journalist, Blogger, Host of “All Things Considered” for WESA/NPR
Dr. Kiran Perkins, MD, OBGYN, Mercy Medical Center
Angela Seals, Program Manager, Childrenʼs Museum of Pittsburgh
Kate Stoltzfus, Co-founder of Propelle for women entrepreneurs; Founder/Editor of Yinzpiration.com; Digital Strategist, Plumb Media
Kymbo Slice: You selected your subjects because they have made Pittsburgh their home and make a positive impact on our city through their daily lives – what in particular about some of your subjects inspires you as an artist and individual?
Sonja Sweterlitsch: All of the women in this show have personally inspired me. Meeting other artists was very interesting for me, especially since the artists I’ve painted for this show are performers – singers, musicians and dancers. Painting is a solitary art. There is an element of collaboration when I meet the woman I’ll paint and have a photo shoot with her, but for most of the process it’s just me and the canvas. Getting to know people like Casey Hanner and Kellee Maize was fascinating – Kellee exudes confidence, and I love how she uses her music and lyrics to create a message that’s both audience-focused and deeply personal. I’ve loved getting to know Julia Erickson, the principal dancer at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. She is a deep thinker and very serious about her craft. She approached posing for me almost like she was preparing for a performance, her movements made with precision and grace. I remember after meeting Julia I felt like no matter how seriously I thought I had been approaching my painting, there is always room to dig deeper and strive for perfection.
KS: Why did you choose Fe Gallery for your exhibit?
SS: Fe Gallery is a great venue. I was already familiar with the space from having attended so many previous shows there, so when I began thinking about where I could place “Beautiful Dreamers,” Fe was on the radar. Some reasons for choosing Fe are practical – it’s a clean space and large enough to hold the paintings I wanted to show, and it has a good reputation so I knew they’d be great to work with. Other reasons are more mission-driven. Fe Gallery is a volunteer-run non profit gallery dedicated to serving Pittsburgh. I felt like Fe’s mission was a good fit for this particular show.
KS: What about Pittsburgh inspires you as an artist?
SS: The people – absolutely. I know that every city has great people, but one of the truly unique things about Pittsburgh, I feel, is its combination of big-city opportunities with a small-town vibe. Pittsburghers are so supportive of each other and so kind. I set out asking sixteen women to pose for a portrait project and came away with sixteen new, close friends. I don’t think something like that would necessarily happen in other, more fast-paced cities. Pittsburgh also has a great, vibrant arts community. There are so many artists here, and so many people who take art seriously, which creates a great atmosphere for exploring ideas and expressing yourself.
You can see each of the sixteen oil painting portraits beginning tonight at the opening reception. A closing reception will be held from 7-9PM on Friday, January 11. An evening of music with singer-songwriter and Beautiful Dreamer Joy Ike will be held on Friday, December 14 from 8-10PM. There are plenty of chances to see the exhibit during regular gallery hours as well, so get out and check out these sixteen Beautiful Dreamers!