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 Helen Shafter Feyler-Switz  (1925 - 2006)

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Lived/Active: California/Pennsylvania      Known for: sculpture, painting, silkscreen printing, photography, art education

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Helen Shafter Feyler Switz is primarily known as Helen Shafter Feyler-Switz

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information was submitted in September of 2006 by Norm Hodgson, Cal State University East Bay Curatorial Associate, Willits Center Gallery Director

Helen Shafter Feyler Switz was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on March 25, 1925.  She died in Fremont California on July 18, 2006.  Helen was brought up during the Depression with her two sisters by her mother,who had been abandoned by their father shortly after Helen was born.  Even under such hard conditions, Helen showed early artistic abilities when at age eight, a painting she did of one of the Seven Dwarfs was exhibited during a Philadelphia City Christmas Pageant .

She went on to receive her Bachelors Degrees in Art and French at Temple University and her Masters Degree in sculpture from California State Long Beach.  She was married in 1949, in a May-December union to a man 25 years older, Alfred Feyler; they moved from Philadelphia to Garden Grove, California where Helen began to teach as well as study. 

From 1965 to 1966 she studied at the Royal Acadamy of Fine Arts at the Hague, Holland with J.J. Beljon.  Her career as a sculptor clarified under his tutelage and their collaborations on various public works.  Also, during this time Helen became aware of the fact that she suffered from diabetes---a condition she dealt with for the rest of her life; she also had a small malignancy removed from her right breast.  Her personal health issues emphasized those themes in her work dealing with the roles of women, their strengths and sensitivities.

On returning to the States, she discovered that her husband had terminal cancer and he died soon after.  Helen continued teaching and working with the help of a family friend, Lou Switz.  By 1970 it was clear that she and Lou were in love, and they were soon married at her sister's house in Brigantine, New Jersey.

Lou and Helen traveled to many places from which Helen drew inspiration for her work, including New Guinea, Ukraine and China.  China's influence was very specific to her and some pieces such as her bronzes and cast concrete forms show an Asian influence.  In a lifetime devoted to art, Helen shared creative visions with students in her classrooms, teaching at various times at Chabot and Ohlone in the San Francisco Bay Area; Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California; Cypress College in Cypress; and California State at Fullerton.

Many of her works are publicly displayed: Emerging Spirit, a wood sculpture at Chabot College; Sanctuary Cross In Oak at first United Methodist Church in Fremont; and Christ and St. Francis at St. Francis High School in Mountain View.

During the last twenty years Helen had to also carry the burden on having a leg bone replaced due to cancer.  The metal rod was set into a concrete "hip" which required her to walk with a cane.  Helen never allowed her disabilities to slow her down.  She had a large work area behind her house where her wooden "monoliths" were carved, where concrete forms were built by her for large artworks ,and a kiln was used to create bronze sculptures using a 'lost wax process'.  Helen did all of these steps by herself.  Her attention to perfection of technique, style and form is evident in all her works; as a teacher she would not have had it any other way.  Her works are all examples of artistic perfectionism while retaining a sense of fluid spontaneity and creativity.  Her works are considered ahead of their time for a woman to have been involved in architectural concrete yet they retain a purely feminist spirit at the same time. 

Helen died 8 days shy of her 35th wedding anniversary to Lou Switz.  She has left a legacy of sculptures paintings, silkscreen , photographs and other works incorporating the principles of strength and simplicity that she so cherished.  Her mediums included oils, acrylic, wood, various stones carvings, woodblocks, ceramics and jewelry.   Her styles during her life ranged through the impressionist, expressionist, cubist, abstract and action.  She has been well exhibited in shows throughout her life from Big Sur, in various exhibitions around the Bay Area and up into Sacramento.  A teacher-artist she thrilled at seeing her students create and pursue their own muse; the power and beauty of her works' legacy defines the woman and her life.

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts worked with Dutch Sculptor, J.J. Beljon, the Hague, Holland
California State University, Long Beach, California, M.A., B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa)
Aspen School of Art worked with French sculptor, Francois Stahly, Aspen, Colorado
University of Southern California
Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1992   The Bartlett Gallery, Pleasanton, Ca.
1986   Ohlone College, Fremont, Ca.
1985   Oakland Art Gallery, Oakland, Ca.
1979   Bakersfield College, Bakersfield, Ca.
          Chabot College, Hayward, Ca.
1978   Sun Gallery, Hayward, Ca.
1969   Hicks Gallery, Long Beach, Ca.
1967   Dorian Hunter Gallery, Fullerton, Ca.
1996   "MOTHER LODE' SCULPTURE - Vault Gallery, Sonora, Ca.
           19th REGIONAL CONFEREINCE - Prieto Gallery - Mills College, Oakland, Ca.
1995   CULTURAL ARTS COUNCIL PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT - Alameda County Library, Fremont, Ca.
           "Through the Door" - Pacific Rim Sculptors Group - Contract Design Center, San Francisco, Ca.
1994   CULTURAL ARTS COUNCIL PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT - Alameda County Library, Fremont, Ca.
          "PRINT MAKERS" International-Art in the Annex-Hayward Arts Council, Hayward, Ca.
          NATIONAL "SELECTIONS 1994" - The Cork Gallery, Avery-Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, NY, NY
          "PERCEPTION THROUGH CAMERA and SCULPTURE 1994" - Bartlett Gallery, Pleasanton, Ca.
1993   INVITATIONAL NATIONAL "STATE OF THE ART '93" - New England Fine Arts Institute, Mass.
           INVITATIONAL "RECYLCING FAIRE '93" - Garbage Museum, Fremont, Ca.
1992   "10th ANNUAL INVITATIONAL EXHIBIT” – Bartlett Gallery, Pleasanton, Ca.
           “13 PHOTOGRAPHERS EXHIBIT” – Center for the Visual Arts, Oakland, Ca.
           INTERNATIONAL ‘Women in Photography” – Sardinia, Palermo, and Milan, Italy
1991   “WOMEN ON WOMEN” Exhibition – Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
           INTERNATIONAL “Women in Photography” – Academy of Fine Arts, Univ.of Catania, Sicily, Italy
            61st Annual Statewide Exhibit – Art League, Santa Cruz, Ca.
           INTERNATIONAL 1991 EXHIBITION “Women in Photography” – Kultur Huset, Stockholm, Sweden
           “Issue:EARTH”, US & Canada Exhibition, Brandstater Gallery, Loma Linda University, Riverside, Ca.
1990   INTERNATIONAL “Women in Photography” – The Royal Photographic Society, National Centre of Photography, Bath, England
           “PERMANENT COLLECTION”, SUN Gallery, Hayward, Ca.
           “NATIONAL EXHIBITION 1990”, Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley, Ca.
            INTERNATIONAL “Women in Photography”, Portland School of Art Gallery, Portland, Maine
           “The Subject is Breast Cancer” National Exhibit, Washoe Medical Center, Reno, NV
           “The Subject is Breast Cancer” National Exhibit, Matrix Gallery, Sacramento, Ca.   
           “Body & Psyche” – Accurate Art Gallery, Sacramento, Ca.
           INTERNATIONAL “Women in Photography” – Photographic Center Northwest Gallery, Seattle, Washington
1989   INTERNATIONAL 1989 EXHIBITION – “Woman in Photography”, Pacific Grove – on tour until 1992 – US, Canada, Europe, New Zealand
           “Perspectives ’89:the Disability Life Experience” – Accurate Art Gallery, Sacramento, Ca.
           “Bridging the Gaps” – National Juried Exhibition-Photo, Women’s Art Gallery, San Francisco, Ca.
1988   “Women Artists ‘88” National Juried Exhibition, Matrix Gallery, Sacramento, Ca.
           Video – Melissa Harmon, Curated by Nancy Franks, Hatley-Martin Gallery, San Francisco, Ca.
            4th Annual National Juried Exhibition, Berkeley, Ca.         
1987    “Eleven New Artists” Editions Limited Gallery, San Francisco, Ca.
           “Bay Arts ‘87”, Belmont, Ca.
           “Forms in Space”, Sun Gallery, Hayward, Ca.
1986   Juried Exhibition ’86, Centennial Hall, Hayward, Ca.
1985   WCA (Woman’s Caucus for Arts) Curated Show, Sun Gallery, Hayward
1984   “Bay Arts ’84,”, Belmont, Ca.
           “Big sister is Watching”, South of Market Street Cultural Center, San Francisco
1983   Forum of Arts, Hayward, Ca.
           “Organic Geometry”, Studio One Art Gallery, Hayward, Ca.
           “Four Artists”, Olive Hyde Art Gallery, Fremont, Ca.
1982   Invitational – International Sculpture Conference, Centennial Hall, Hayward, Ca.
           Invitational – Humboldt State University, Arcata, Ca.
1981   “San Jose Regional 3-D”, San Jose, Ca.
1980   “Sculptors 8”, Invitational, Sun Gallery, Hayward, Ca.
           “Expo ‘80”, Chabot College, Hayward, Ca.
1979   Juried Art Exhibition, Livermore, Ca.
           Invitational Art Exhibition, Hayward, Ca.
1978   Invitational Art Forum, Hayward, Ca.
1977   Invitational Sculpture, Center of rhte Visual Arts, Oakland, Ca.          
           Juried Art Exhibition ’77, Hayward, Ca.
1976   “Spectrum”, Art Exhibit, Sun Gallery, Hayward, Ca.
           Juried Art Exhibit, Fremont, Ca.
1973   Long Beach Art Association, Long Beach, Ca.
1971   Juried Sculpture Show of Southern California
1967   5th Annual So. Calif. Exhibition, Art Museum, Long Beach, Ca.
1966   Juried Show, Lakewood, Ca.
1965   Long Beach Art Museum, Long Beach Art League, Orange, Ca.
1964   Juried Exhibit, Downey Art Museum, Downey, Ca.
1963   Long Beach Art Museum, Long Beach, Ca.
1996   LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – NCWCA – Mills College, Oakland, Ca.
1991   SYMPOSIUM – “Women Behind the Images”, University of Catania, Sicily, Italy
1986   HONORABLE MENTION – Exhibition ’86, Centennial Hall, Hayward, Ca.
1979   SECOND – Art Exhibition, Livermore, Ca.
1977   PURCHASE AWARD – Art Exhibiton ’77, Centennial Hall, Hayward, Ca.
1976   MERIT – “Spectrum” Art Exhibit, Sun Gallery, Hayward, Ca.
           HONORABLE MENTION – Juried Art Exhibit, Fremont, Ca.
1973   SECOND BEST OF SHOW – Art Association, Long Beach, Ca.
1971   BEST OF SHOW – Juried Sculpture of Southern California
1966   BEST OF SHOW - Juried Art Exhibit, Lakewood, Ca.
           FIRST HONORABLE MENTION – Open Art Show, Long Beach, Ca.
1965   BEST OF SHOW – Art Exhibit, Long Beach, Ca.
           THIRD BEST OF SHOW – Long Beach Art Museum, Long Beach, Ca.
           HONORABLE MENTION – Art League, Orange, Ca.
           HONORABLE MENTION – Downey Art Museum, Downey, Ca.
1964   SECOND – Art Exhibit, Long Beach, Ca.
1964   SECOND BEST OF SHOW – Art Association, Long Beach, Ca.
           FIRST – Art Association, Long Beach, Ca.
           FIRST – Downey Art Museum, Downey, Ca.
1963   FIRST – Open Art Show, Long Beach, Ca.
           HONORABLE MENTION – Long Beach Art Museum, Long Beach, Ca.
1994   Private – “Blue/Green”, concrete waterfall sculpture, Fremont, Ca., 40’x16’x8’
1990   Private – “The Falls” – two bronze sculptures in Reflecting Pool, Rancho Santa Fe, Ca., 78”x12”x12”
1981   Public – Sanctuary Cross in oak, First United Methodist Church , Fremont, Ca., 168”x80”x8”
1981   Public – “Emerging Spirit”, wood sculpture in laminated cedar, Chabot College, Hayward, Ca., 96”x14”x14” – base: 14”x108”x72”
1980   Public – Christ and St. Francis repaired in wood, St. Francis High School, Mountain View, Ca.
1975   Private – Painting – portrait in oil, Hayward, Ca.
1973   Private – Walker Fountain in concrete and stained glass, Fountain Valley, Ca., 93”x12”x12” – base: 12”x144”x75”
1994   Chairperson of Art Review Board for City of Fremont, Ca.
1993   International Sculpture Conference TECH shops, Oakland, Ca.
           Vice Chairperson of Art Review Board for City of Fremont, Ca.
1992   International Sculpture Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
           Vice Chairperson of Art Review Board for City of Fremont, Ca.
1991   International Sculpture Conference, Chicago, Il.
           Reappointed member of Art Review Board for City of Fremont, Ca.
1990   International Sculpture Conference, Washington, D.C.
           “Art in Nature”, represented City of Fremont Art Review Board, Santa Barbara
1989   WCA National Conference in San Francisco, Ca.
           Member of Art Review Board for City of Fremont, Ca. – two-year tenure
1988   WCA National Conference in Houston, Tx.
1987   WCA President of Northern California Chapter
1986   BALA AUCTION, San Francisco, Ca.
           WCA National Conference in New York (President of Northern Calif. Chapter)
1985   HAFA AUCTION, Hayward, Ca.
           Curated with TONIA MACNEIL Women’s Caucus for Art Show, Sun Gallery, Hayward, Ca.
1984   Curated Central Bank Art Show for Center for the Visual Arts, Oakland, Ca.
           Judged WCA Art Show with Suzann Boettger, Bernice Bing, Rosalie Cassell and Thomas, South of Market Street Cultural Center, San Francisco, Ca.
1983   HAFA AUCTION, Hayward, Ca.
1982   Interviewed for Channel 3 – Cable TV during the International Sculpture Conference in the Bay Area.  This is being shown nationally.
1981   Judge of Bakersfield College Comm7unity Art Show, Bakersfield, Ca.
1980   Judge of St., Francis Art Show, Mountain View, Ca.
1977   Dedicated a wall of sculpture at Chabot College, Hayward.  Coordinated a team of six students in the creation and installation of wood relief sculpture that measures 172”x300”x12” and is the first permanent sculpture on the Chabot Campus.
1973   Judge of Laguna Beach Art Show, Laguna Beach, Ca.
1972   Judge of Long Beach Art Show, Long Beach, Ca.
1969   Judge of Saddleback College Art Exhibit, Mission Viejo, Ca.
1966   As a result of my work in the Symposium (see 1965), J.J. Beljon extended special invitation to work with him in The Hague.  Beljon is Director of the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague, Holland.  Over five months were spent working with him in his studios at the Academy.
1965   Participated in the INTERNATIONAL SCULPTURE SYMPOSIUM at California State University, Long Beach.  There were eight renowned sculptors of various countries.  I worked with the Dutch sculptor, J.J. Beljon, and assisted in every facet of the work that measured 125’ in length and 10’ in height and consisted of 19 units.
International Sculpture Conference
Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals
Women’s Caucus for Art, San Francisco, (Northern Calif. Chapter of National) President 1985-1987
Center for the Visual Arts
Pro-Arts, Oakland, Ca
Chabot College, Hayward, Ca.
Ohlone College, Fremont, Ca.
Saddleback College, Mission Viejo, Ca.
Cypress College, Cypress, Ca.
California State University, Fullerton, Ca.
Bartlett Gallery, Pleasonton, Ca.
Deborah Biglin, Art Consultant, Skillman, New Jersey
1996   NEWSLETTER – Full Page w/photos – May – Martha Mezo
           ARGUS – April – Jolene Thym
           The TWIG – May
1995   INTERNATIONAL SCULPTURE CNETER magazine – Full Page Photo – July/August
1994   SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS – March – Robin Worthington
           THE SUNDAY REVIEW – Feb – Rita Resare
1992   DANCE TEACHER NOW magazine – Oct – Shirley W. McPhail
           INTERNATIONAL SCULPTURE CENTER magazine – May/June
           CATALOGUE – “Issue-EARTH”, La Sierra University, Riverside, Ca.
1992   WCA NATIONAL UPDATE – Vol. 2, No.3, and Vol.3, No.1, Washington, D.C.
           VALLEY TIMES – Jan – Linda Davis
           DAILY REVIEW – Jan – Jolene Thym
           ARGUS – Jan and Oct – Jolene Thym
           HERALD – Jan and Oct – Jolene Thym
           The TWIG – Jan and Mar
1991   FORT MASON CENTER – Dec – San Francisco, Ca.
           ARGUS – Dec
           SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS – Feb-Nov – Robin Worthington
           F2 WOMEN IN PHOTOGRAPHY – Summer – Alexadra Milovanovich
           WCA NATIONAL UPDATE – Vol. 2, No. 1 and Vol. 2, No. 2 Washington, D.C.
           KULTURFORVALTNINGEN, Stockholm Sweden
           The TWIG – May
           BATH EVENTS – Bath, England
           ARGUS – Feb
1990   ARGUS – Oct – Diane Dawson
           SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS – Feb – Oct – Robin Worthington
           NEWS RELEASES – September
           EVENING EXPRESS – July, Portland, Maine
           ON THE WING – Mar – Sylvia Tessore
           ARGUS – Feb 25 – Cheryl Greger
1989   “ZOOM” International Magazine – Oct/Nov
           THE CALIFORNIA ART REVIEW – 2nd edition
           OAKLAND TRIBUNE – Nov 10 – Ann Peaslee
           DAILY REVIEW – Nov
           ARGUS – Jan and Nov
           SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS – Jan and September
           INTERNATIONAL SCULPTURE CENTER magazine – Sept/Oct – May/June – Jan/Feb
1988   ARGUS – September
           ALAMEDA TIMES STAR – May – Martha Kennelly
1987   ARGUS – April
           CATALOGUE – “Beyond Power – A Celebration” – WCA/South Exposure Gallery, San Francisco, March
           CENTER for the VISUAL ARTS – January/February
           DAILY REVIEW – May
           HERALD – May – Martha Kennedy
           OAKLAND TRIBUNE – April and May – Charles Shere
           SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS – April – Robin Worthington
1986   ARGUS – March
           DAILY REVIEW – March
1985   ARGUS – March
           DAILY REVIEW - April
           OAKLAND TRIBUNE – April
1983   ARGUS – February
           CENTER FOR THE VISUAL ARTS – August/September
1981   ARGUS – May and June
1980   ARGUS – May
           ARTWEEK – May 31 – Mollie O’Neill
           DAILY REVIEW – June
1979   BAKERSFIELD NEWS – September
           ARTWEEK - March
           ARGUS – February and October
           OAKLAND TRIBUNE – February
1977   ARTWEEK – May

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