Tuesday, November 2, 2021

misTaken Identities: Stories of Jewish Invisibility in the Southwest

misTaken Identities

an online exhibition of paintings and drawings 

inspired by stories of Jewish invisibility in the Southwest

The southwestern United States has a mesmerizing ambiance. A tapestry of cultures that includes a special story, that of the hidden Jewish peoples of the Southwest. Cloaked in mystery and intrigue the stories, songs and legends that permeate dinner tables and camp fires, names of streets and organizations all have clues to this history. As I listened carefully I realized clues were being dropped, bread crumbs for me to quietly follow.

 “My people got lost on their long journey from León” one friend told me with a wink. A student quietly wishes me “Shanoa Tova Mr.” and rushes off with a smile. “The way my grandmother wove dough for bread on Fridays was different, she braided it” a Barrio elder once told me. “You are my people?” I asked. “Yes”, he responded gently.

These fascinating clues, puzzle pieces, were starting to take form. I began visually researching the forced expulsion of Jewish and Muslim peoples from Spain in 1492.  I was blessed to befriend Arizona Daily Star sports writer Abe Chanin (1921-2014) who founded the Southwest Jewish Archives at the University of Arizona.  Abe guided my initial learning on this subject. He operated an anonymous hotline that people could call in and share their stories. The response was mind boggling. His challenge to me was to tell this story through the arts.

The Jewish “Sepharad” came to be known as "Conversos" or "Moranos". The Sephardic diaspora spread people throughout the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, and the Americas. Here in the US Jews wandered north from places such as the recently colonized “New Kingdom of León” (Mexico) to escape deadly inquisitional courts. Today evidence of this Anusim is evidenced throughout the Southwest. In bakeries, gatherings, on signs, landmarks, graveyards and street names.

Prior to the development of the sextant, astrolabes were instruments, produced by craftspeople, used to make astronomical measurements, typically of the altitudes of celestial bodies, and in navigation for calculating latitude. There were Jewish craftspeople who created astrolabes, which were inscribed in Hebrew.

This work in this exhibit revolves around the general theme of the Hidden Jewish Communities, specifically the Sephardic and references to the Mashhadi experiences. Enjoy, and I look forward to your feedback.

 - Michael B Schwartz

4. "Shhhhh"
Ink on Paper
5” x 14”


"The Mashhadi Jewish peoples, The Hidden Jewish of Iran, were forced to pretend to convert to Islam from 1839 to 1925. For 200 years they hid their identity."

8. "Torah Hug"
Pastel on paper
18” x 24”

10. "journey"
Acrylic on Canvas Board
12” x 16”


"Do you remember, do you forget, did we remember to close the door? wandering, sailing - through these centuries we are."

12. "relocating"
Mixed Media on Paper
24” x 36”

"Had we been without our stories and navigational equipment all would have been lost, somehow we had to find a ship to stow away on, to reunite with our community, oh if only we could find a way home."


17. "Sevilla, Spain 1371"
Acrylic on Wood
24” x 36”

"We should have known, in 1369 physician and astrologer Abraham ibn Zarzal was called into doubt for no reason at all, what was it with these accusations!"

20. "An Astrolabe"
Acrylic on Canvas
30” x 48”

“People frequently associate astrolabes with navigation. Although the instrument used in navigation was a simplified version of the more complex planispheric astrolabe and its use did not start until the 15th century, I would like to keep this image of seas and new lands associated to our research; for the astrolabe is bringing us  a new insight into many aspects of the life and interests of medieval Jews, and some discoveries.”

Dr. Josefina Rodriguez Arribas

23."The Order"
Ink, Acrylic on Paper
24” x 36”

“1492, the order came, banishment, death, conversion or some such combination. we gathered what we could, we knew this day was coming, it was in the air.”


24. “Run”
Pastel on Paper
24” x 36”

"We did not want to give up our wonderful lives in Spain, a place for generations we had called home. But it was this, forced conversion or death. How many perished in those days we still do not know. BDE”

Additional Reading:

Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies
Beit Hatfutsot - Museum of the Jewish People
Southwest Jewish Archives

Monday, November 1, 2021

Talk, Talk, Talk: Dialogue: an online exhibition about conversations


(Click this image to view exhibit in full screen.)

Talk, Talk, Talk

Artists Statement: “Dialogue”

When selecting works for this exhibit I looked for images of people talking at home. I wanted to capture the feeling of very specific moments. These are every day random group conversations. (I edited out meetings, hearings, inter/intra-species dialogue, or ancestor works - all fascinating subjects for future exhibits).

These works reflect the vulnerable and tender moments of engaging in dialogue. From the humorous and profane conversations shape the human experience. Finding out what recipes, family traditions, places we love to go, sharing cultural artifacts, folklore and hidden expertise is exciting, and vital. Talking with someone who cares and listens well is nutritious. 
Today as we reweave the world in front of us, the conversations resume…

"Just Then"
Acrylic on Cotton
72” x 96”

Pastel on Paper
36’ x 60”

"The Debate"
12” x 16”
Oil on Canvas

Pastel on Paper
36’ x 72”

Watercolor on Paper
9” x 12”

Oil pastel on Paper
10” x 10”

Listening, intently…
Watercolor on Paper
9” x 12”

Watercolor on Parchment
12” x 18”

Mixed Media on Paper
18” x 24”

Mixed Media on Paper
18” x 24”

Check out this writing I did a few years ago about coming to consensus on a neighborhood mural project.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Hugs For the Houseless Poetry Mural

NEW: Hugs For the Houseless Poetry Mural

A new Jazz inspired Poetry mural collaboration illuminates the Veteran Rescue Mission (serving houseless Vets) tiny house eco-village in southern Arizona.

Artist Michael B. Schwartz collaborated with Austin Davis, a poet and student activist currently studying creative writing at ASU and leading Arizona Jews For Justice’s unsheltered outreach program, AZ Hugs For the Houseless.

The artists talked about the relationship of Jazz to Colors and poetry, and how that could drive the project. They selected one of Austin’s poems, then discussed what music came to mind as we read this poem? Austin suggested:



Miles Davis Blue in Green 


While listening to the works Michael set about mixing a series of harmonious, moody colors. Paints and color in this case were used to emphasize the poem. Each letter became a figure. Each word  and line of the poem carefully placed. Then the layers of color. What a great addition to the murals at VRM!

Falls Over your head
Like a wool blanket
on a 100 degree day
hold someone close tonight"



Austin is the author of "The World Isn’t the Size of Our Neighborhood Anymore" (Weasel Press, 2020) and "Celestial Night Light" (Ghost City Press, 2020).

You can read more about Austin and his work here:

Thursday, July 15, 2021

MB Schwartz Studio Updates: Summer 2021

New Works: Summer 2021

These are some preview samples from my current body of works, to be exhibited this fall.

From the artists journal:

“These figurative works are narrative observation/intuition based. They rely on this idea of the artist as a vessel by which intuition is transferred as a mark to a surface, while telling a story. The structure is preexisting. In this sense the archetype becomes a historical bookmark of sorts, the topical space environment surrounding these paintings are as important as the works themselves.”

Furnace Creek, CA
120 °F July 12, 2021
212 °F = boiling point"


Existential Questions, perhaps never answered, but remain
Acrylic on Canvas
9” x 12”

(subtitled:  “Mystic Arts map the world in uncommon ways, common dreams.”)

Acrylic on Canvas
20” x 25”

graphite on arches
9” x 12”


(* Original work available for advanced purchase. They will be included in the fall exhibit, after which shipping will be expedited. All works ©2021 Michael B Schwartz/ MBSArts LLC)

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Digital Visual Meditations and Rhythms


I’ve been doing this series of drawings and digital collages for some time. The end product can be a just about anything I can print or project on. I have mixed feelings about this. As a painter I’ve always felt that the direct tactile experience with a work of art is essential. I had to ask myself, can I duplicate this experience digitally? Can this experience of a painting talking to directly to the viewer be translated into digital format?

The answers I suppose are self evident - as we learn to see light through these screens - the experience, while fleeting, can be profound. We can’t touch the textures, or taste the smells but we can imagine - we can be transported for a moment.

In that spirit I have been creating dozens of these digital collages. They go well with the sound of Jazz music. 

Let me know what you think, I hope they lighten up your day!

(Yes, these image are also available in print form, contact me for pricing.)

MBSarts on Cover of LaLapid Magazine

 I’m honored to be on the current cover of LaLapid Magazine, The Society for Crypto Judaic Studies. You can sign up for membership and learn more here

"Astrolabes"Acrylic on Canvas 30” x 48”,  is featured in an on-line exhibit 

on my website that you can enjoy here

Mapping New Circulatory Systems

Weekly Wednesday Community Arts Workshops Continue
 (artists journal)

Over the past several years I’ve been volunteering as as Artist in Residence (AIR) with Veterans Rescue Mission, a mini house village dedicated to getting vets the services to which they are entitled. The site is dedicated to transitional living, with several full time stewards on the acre campus. It’s a fun project, no expectations, the participants drive the process. We had been working on murals, gardens, shade structures and exhibits prior to “COVID 19”.

Working on a shade structure.
Throughout the past year colleagues and I have struggled with the most effective ways to adapt our community art making practices amidst this pandemic. We have utilized new platforms, podcasts, Zoom, emails, calls and texts. For a few weeks it was safe to meet in person, that ended quickly and it was right back to Zoom. Recently our weekly sessions added artist presentations, time for journal reflection and a new mural class.

Our earth day session included time for house plants to socialize over Zoom.

We tried various collaborative drawing experiments.

Participants are doing individual projects in our houses and places of work. We are creating things and offering services vital to our community. The general unifying theme seems to revolve around this idea of adaptation- developing systems of support, for our hearts, bodies, minds and souls. There is a strong awareness of the impacts of climate change.

The change to on-line has been awkward for everyone. Community arts practice is often about spontaneity, new ideas emerge from discussions while working together, poetry being read, food  served -  that dynamic buzz of excitement.

As participants described their lives and needs we came up with the idea of art deliveries. The first round of Emergency Art-Aid kits was delivered with contributions of seeds, plant starters, art supplies and tools. We all depend on these systems, networks for production and distribution of goods and services. This idea of transit, of making, then moving objects from one place to another has revealed abundance. There are gardens, seeds, a thrift store, teachers, weavers, builders, neighbors and networks.

As I drove about delivering kits I thought of my voyage as wing akin to connecting the meridians of our city, a network of veins or rivers, a life force being animated. As we engage this system the kinesthetic excitement of collaboration produces an energy wave. We can measure that wave, observe and then re-engage it. This process of adaptation amidst uncertainty and grief is producing innovation.

We have been asking some framing questions.

  • How can we use Art-Aid kits to do things  together?
  • What do we need to realize our project goals?
  • Personal goals?
  • How do we raise each other up?
  • How do we support one another authentically?
  • How can we help each other on location specific projects like murals and mosaics?

Then more broadly:

  • How can we intentionally use the arts to lift the creative energy of this place?
  • How can we breath life into, to animate our community?
  • How does intentional breathing increase circulation?
  • Who are we serving?

In the weeks and months to come, we will find out. Slowly, as a community of makers and learners we are figuring this out together.

The Garden at VRM is thriving.

Workshops are every Wed. 4pm. To register, or if you have questions contact me through my website here: www.MichaelBSchwartz.com