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The faces in Linda Friedman Schmidt’s fabric portraits are lifelike and emotive — dancing, crying, or smiling with abandon. Expression is its own kind of freedom; growing up, Schmidt wasn’t often afforded the privilege to emote freely. Born to two Holocaust survivors in a displaced persons camp after World War II, Schmidt witnessed the fear and emotional suppression specific to trauma survivors. Now, she uses her work to explore the intergenerational nature of trauma, the discomfort of being in your skin, and the fear induced by one’s own identity — and the things that heal it, like movement, honest sadness, and shameless joy.
Schmidt is the subject of the fifth short film in Rémy and Kelsey Bennett’s intimate documentary web-series, Under Her Skin, produced by The FRONT, a platform for feminist media. The film, premiering exclusively on Hyperallergic, is timed for International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. It examines Schmidt’s life and art, particularly her use of discarded clothing and her reverence for the people oppressed and marginalized until they, too, are treated like afterthoughts.
“Too many people in this world are treated like rags: used, discarded, disrespected, unwanted,” Schmidt told Hyperallergic over email. “I conceptually rescue discarded, disposable, abused humanity. I transform the worthless into worthy, the bad into good, give permanence to the disposable through art. My rags … reflect the vulnerability and fragility of people, the pain, grief, and suffering of those mistreated.”
Other episodes of Under Her Skin, which profiles female artists aged 17 to 70, include short documentaries on Panteha Abareshi, Tafv Sampson, Parker Day, Hein Koh, and, soon, Jane Rule Burdine. The Bennett sisters are the granddaughters of jazz singer Tony Bennett, who once freed prisoners of a Jewish internment camp. In a way, the filmmakers’ dedication to showcasing diverse stories like Schmidt’s feels like a familial example of something coming full circle.
Schmidt will also present work in a solo exhibition, Identity, Textured, at Pascal Gallery, at Ramapo College of New Jersey, from January 31 through March 2.