Fire Fall by Fred Schwab

  • Title: Fire Fall
  • Artist: Fred Schwab
  • Medium: Monoprint
  • Size: 32"h x 24"w
  • Creation date: 1987
  • Added to collection: 2019
  • Donor: Gift of Wally Schwab
  • Campus: Rock Creek
  • Location: B3/2 Hallway gallery rm 232

This image of the last rays of sunlight hitting a waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge is an effect called a “Fire Fall.” This image is a monotype, made when color is rolled onto a plate, wiped back, and then printed on paper in an etching press. Schwab's technique in monotype involved multiple passes of different translucent colors on the same print edition.   The technical proficiency and planning necessary to achieve the effect of the soft edge burst of orange mist in this method indicates an extreme trust in process, knowledge of ink length and tack, and keen attention to detail.  Schwab's monotypes look like paintings.

Fred Schwab was a talented artist who struggled with addition his whole life. It is hard not to see this image as a kind of self portrait of an artist delirious with a last burst of vitality before plunging, like Faust, into darkness.

The facts of an artist’s life may be sad but art remains always somehow optimistic: the soul seeks communion with a stranger through image, text or song. We now can meet Fred Schwab in art perhaps more purely than ever in life. Here is a man at odds with himself whose deep love of nature and of music and whose courage to continue to transform himself may prove an inspiration to a whole generation who never knew him.  The last doctor who attended Fred Schwab said he believed he died of “a broken heart.” That may very well be true, but that heart still remains, ready to meet you, in the work.