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A Surreal Life

After decades of painting, Sylvia Fein is as inspired as ever.


Nicholas Pishvanov


Six years ago, sylvia fein ran out of large canvasses and decided to paint a human eye on a small one. An image of her dog, Leonardo da Vinci, took shape in the pupil. Then, she painted an eye with a cat, then a kite, then a garden, and so on. She ended up with 20, each more outlandish than the last.

Courtesy of Krowswork Gallery“I said, ‘My God, what is this?’ ” says Fein, who paints in her light-soaked Martinez studio. “All of a sudden, I burst into a new life.”

Not bad, considering Fein is 94 and first won raves during the World War II era for her work as part of an influential, avant-garde group of surrealists at the University of Wisconsin. Today, she is one of the best living female surrealists in the country.

This month, Fein has her largest solo exhibition, Surreal Nature, at Krowswork Gallery in Oakland. The show features a selection of her body of work, including historical paintings depicting people and landscapes, and more contemporary ones, such as those featuring her signature eye.

“In my old age, I have become illuminated,” she says. “It’s almost as if somebody else has my hand. I’m experiencing the opposite of a dry period now.”

Through February 22 at Krowswork Gallery, 480 23rd St., Oakland, (510) 229-7035, krowswork.com/sylviafein.

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