Phyllis Trager Hyman

A child of Jewish immigrants in gritty Williamsburg Brooklyn, she was crippled by polio during the 1940’s epidemic. Though stigmatized and isolated by the disease, she developed a wry humor, steely gentleness and intellect. Stories sustained her, but many concerned the Holocaust, hardship, and fear.

 

Living briefly in Greenwich Village, she steeped herself in existentialism and Beat poetry. In time schizophrenia and paranoia emerged leading to electro-shock treatments, mind-numbing drugs, and in the last twelve years of her life, a relationship with a trusting and supportive psychiatrist with whom she felt safe. He wrote, “Her diagnosis was schizoaffective disorder, with psychotic depressions. She was severely paranoid with bizarre delusions (e.g.,she was Hitler’s daughter…responsible for the Holocaust”.

 

Phyllis Trager Hyman led a quiet, artful life with her loving and supportive husband of 36 years. She was terrified in public places and haunted by a negative self-perception. Her art was her life source. It sustained and nourished her. She would sequester herself for long periods of time in her house, creating the art work that told her story… one of profound mental disability, tempered with moments of humor, fantasy, compassion, self-awareness. “She knew she was psychotic and delusional, but also seemed to sense what was true and realistic.”

During her most prolific period (2002-2006) she produced hundreds of canvas’ and drawings revealing her innermost feelings about birth, emergence, the meaning of time, identity, hope, absurdity, confinement, mystery, death.

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