The Artwork of John August Swanson

Dear People of Holy Cross,

Since we relocated in 2012, I have been interested in finding religious artwork that might hang at Holy Cross. Until mid-September, nothing had yet emerged. But then I attended an art show at St. James Episcopal Church in La Jolla where 25 works of John August Swanson were displayed for exhibition and sale. While Mr. Swanson’s work is featured at several churches in our diocese, I had not viewed it before. The afternoon was a holy experience, both in terms of viewing the artwork and in meeting the artist.

I hadn’t anticipated making a purchase that day, but taking in the beauty of the paintings for two hours, I decided to purchase three (two photographs of which are shown here – Psalm 85 and Peaceable Kingdom). After being framed and delivered, they are now hanging in the Narthex, Tietge Room and Nursery. Jerry and I would like to loan these paintings to Holy Cross for as long as we are here, or until our leaders decide that different artwork would be more appropriate.

Mr. Swanson’s website is listed below, the following from which are a few highlights: the artist lives in Los Angeles, California, where he was born in 1938. He paints in oil, watercolor, acrylic and mixed media, and is an independent printmaker of limited edition serigraphs, lithographs and etchings. His unique style is influenced by the imagery of Islamic and medieval miniatures, Russian iconography, the color of Latin American folk art, and the tradition of Mexican muralists.

His art reflects the strong heritage of storytelling he inherited from his Mexican mother and Swedish father. His narrative is direct and easily understood. He addresses himself to human values, cultural roots, and his quest for self-discovery through visual images. These include Bible stories and social celebrations such as attending the circus, the concert, and the opera. Unlike many contemporary artists, John Swanson works directly on all phases in producing his original prints. His serigraphs (limited-edition screen prints) have from 40 to 89 colors printed, using transparent and opaque inks that create rich and detailed imagery. For each color printed the artist must draw a stencil on Mylar film, then transfer the stencil to the silk screen for color ink printing. The resulting serigraph is a matrix of richly overlaid colors visually striking and technically masterful.

Mr. Swanson’s art is represented in permanent collections of museums, including three museums of the Smithsonian Institution: The National Museum of American History, The National Museum of American Art and The National Air and Space Museum. He is also included in the print collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard University’s Fogg Museum, the Tate Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. His painting THE PROCESSION is one of relatively few works by contemporary artists to be selected for the Vatican Museums’ Collection of Modern Religious Art.

A portion of the proceeds of art sale from the St. James Exhibition were given to Casa Cornelia, a non-profit legal agency that helps people with immigration problems.

Filed under: Art