By Rich Henrich

“The desert is freedom. It’s the land, the sky. It’s a wide, open landscape. You can be who you want to be. You know, there’s not a lot of people around to f#@$ with you. I should have been born here but it took me twenty years to get here,” says AMFM artist Raymond Lee Schwarz of his self-proclaimed homeland, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Schwarz, once a standout football player, earning the honor of being the top player in his native Minnesota, followed the path less traveled after losing a scholarship due to injury and headed east for New York City and the avant garde stage. His journey led to early friendships with Andy Warhol and Mark Margolis and to emerging art scenes in the 70’s in Oaxaca, Austin and Santa Fe.

“One way or another, art has been my life. I don’t think you become an artist, like you do a doctor or lawyer, you are born an artist. I guess I’ve been aware of myself as an artist since I was a kid. Perhaps you can study and you may learn some techniques but I think you really are born with it.” Raymond sits back in his chair, a guitar in front of him, books, woven rugs, craftsman furniture and paintings all around him.

CVW: You were once the slasher in a Roger Corman film.

RLS: Yeah, that was a hoot! Boy, those days were wild!

CVW: Does acting feed your painting or does painting feed your acting?

RLS: They’re two different animals. One doesn’t feed the other. It’s true, it helps to dabble in different mediums otherwise, you hit a wall. You need different outlets. Artists need to branch out and embrace different mediums.

CVW: You are recently emerging from your own wall.

RLS: Oh God…it’s been five years since I’ve really created anything.

CVW: What is this series about?

RLS: Capturing the West through the eyes of a madman! (He laughs). I’ve always liked Mexican blankets, the colors and patterns and the sun and the sky out West. Really it’s about capturing the colors and textures of the West.

CVW: And this is a departure from your previous art as a metal sculptor.

RLS: Yeah, I’ve crossed several mediums over the years. I was a jeweler and a silversmith at one point and on the stage and the silver screen. I went back to being a metal artist and then a sculptor and then back to theater and film. Now, I’m painting.

CVW: Why painting?

RLS: I always knew in the back of my mind that I would do something with paint but it was just time to do something different. It’s a lot easier to manipulate texture and color. I sold all of my metalworking tools a few years ago. So, now there was just a blank canvas in front of me.

CVW: How do you get your inspiration?

RLS: A cup of coffee in the morning. The rest is my secret. Find your own inspiration! (He chuckles)

CVW: Are there artists that influence you?

RLS: I live in Santa Fe so, I’m surrounded by artists and inspired by many of them. A lot of them are friends. I’m not really into many famous artists. I try to not be influenced by trends or what’s going on in the art world. Santa Fe is the second largest art market in the country behind New York but I came here when it was just an art colony. I still like that aspect of being around artists I’ve known twenty, thirty and forty years.

CVW: Did you set out to be an artist?

RLS: Absolutely. It’s chased more women away than if I’d been a guitarist, though! It suits me perfectly as I have no other discernable skills other than my art and acting.

CVW: Why do you create?

RLS: Somebody has to! You’re asking me questions about things I don’t think about. Why does a writer write? Why does a singer sing?

CVW: What do you want people to know about you as an artist?

RLS: (He laughs) I want the right ones to know that I’m single and I still dare to dangle!

Raymond Lee Schwarz will join Grant Kosh, another Santa Fe-based artist, as part of AMFM Fest’s art exhibit in the Mary Pickford mezzanine set to open Nov. 13th with a special reception for actor Ed Asner and director Mark Rydell. The exhibit of desert artists will run through Nov. 16th. All art will be for sale with portions of the proceeds to benefit an AMFM and CVEP scholarship fund for Coachella Valley students interested in pursuing the arts.

AMFM Fest: art. music. film. more event will be held in Cathedral City at the UltraStar Mary Pickford and Cathedral City Town Square. Live music will be performed on Friday and Saturday (Nov. 14-15th) with food trucks and vendors on hand for the event. Film and art screenings will take place Thursday Nov. 13-16th with a closing night party scheduled at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert, who will also run a beer garden for the festival.

Entrance to view the art will be free along with the music. Tickets for film screenings and parties are available through the UltraStar Mary Pickford Theatre box office. The four-day art, music, film and more event is sponsored by Cathedral City, Film 4 Change, CV Weekly, S.I.R., Westin Rancho Mirage and The Curve. More information on the artists and the event can be found at www.AMFMfest.com or at www.facebook.com/amfmfest

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