"47 Pieces"


By Pamela J. Forsythe

In less than 10 years, Drew Feith Tye experienced the death of her beloved father, a marriage and divorce, coming out as a lesbian, and a subsequent marriage to her wife, whom she met when they were students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Living in Australia in 2013 and needing to recover her equanimity, Tye returned to the endeavor in which she’d found joy as a child and throughout her years at Germantown Academy. She began to paint again, and several recent works are on view at Old City Jewish Art Center (OCJAC).

Expression in experimentation

“Painting is a source of immense catharsis for me,” Tye, 29, explains, “a precious opportunity to reflect, to feel, and to escape and heal from difficult emotional experiences.” Last August, she married Alexis Howe, and the couple livein Washington, D.C., where Tye works in nonprofit staffing and spends time in the studio, producing works in acrylic and mixed media. “I never make excuses to skip studio days,” she says. “I approach my time at the studio as practice, each piece serving as an experiment of technique.”

Immersion, at OCJAC through February 29, is the visual diary of an emerging artist working things out, one canvas at a time. Techniques vary from shimmering sweeps of color, as in Light – sixty six (2015), to Impressionisticblurs, such as Immersion – sixty three (2015), to the boldly colored Metukah, Sweetness – thirty eight (2015), composed of thick, veined paint splotches that appear to have been applied with crumpled paper.

Technique mirrors theme

Tye confirms that brushes are not always involved, often “kneading the paint into the canvases with my hands and fingers. This approach [makes] me feel vulnerable and intimate, and [allows] me to physically feel the colors blend and take shape in a really unique exercise.”

But immersion is more than a creative approach here. Tyechose the theme for the natural association with the mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath. “I was deeply drawn to my personal and powerful associations with the mikveh…that marks important moments and changes in one’s life.”

Including, for the fortunate, that moment when you know you’re exactly where you should be, doing what you were meant to do.


Light – sixty six (2015)

Turbulent life events brought Drew Feith Tye back to painting: “I feel at home when I paint…No matter what, I return to it. I need it and I know it and that awareness has been invaluable.”

Vaser, water – twenty nine (2015)

“I find it very challenging to name my paintings, so numbers serve as a title for the pieces (unless I’m working on a collection…).”

Immersion – sixty three (2015)

Drew Feith Tye intends Immersion to “reflect the authenticity, openness and evolution one feels during a significant life moment. The pieces are abstract and textural and were a meaningful immersion in the practice of painting itself.”

Metukah, Sweetness – thirty eight (2015)

The artist often applies paint with her hands, adding detail with small brushes, textured paper-stencils, metallic spray paint, and a roller brush.