John August Swanson makes his home in Los Angeles, California, where he was born in 1938. He paints in oil,
watercolor, acrylic and mixed media, and is a master printmaker of limited edition serigraphs, lithographs and etchings.
The art of John Swanson is about "bringing stories to life." His creative vision reflects the wonderful gift
of storytelling he inherited from his Mexican mother and Swedish father. His inherently narrative work explores human values,
cultural roots and his ongoing quest for self-discovery through visual images. John's work is influenced by the imagery of
Persian and medieval miniatures, the tradition of Orthodox iconography, Swedish and Latin American folk art and Diego Rivera
and the Mexican muralists.
John didn't really find his artistic avocation until he was 30 years old. Hounded by a sense of failure and weary
of drifting without goals, he decided to take an evening class on lettering and design from Sister Corita Kent at Immaculate
Heart College in Los Angeles. Corita Kent (1918-1986) was a highly respected artist, famous for her colorful silk screens.
Her art and teaching had a powerful impact on the direction of John's spiritual and creative life.
"Corita saved my life," Swanson says. "She became a mentor and helped me find the door that had been closed in
my life. She opened me to art and ideas. She helped me find healing." John credits Corita with introducing him to his primary
art form, the silk-screen process and guiding him to discover his own artistic path and voice. She helped him integrate his
deep-seated faith and strong sense of social justice into his life and art.
When reflecting on his art, John Swanson often returns to the idea of "seeing the sacred in the ordinary." This
is his perennial theme. His art explores how everyday life is filled with the divine and how those going about their daily tasks
have God living within them. The artist-writer Gertrude Mueller Nelson writes that John's art is, "about infusing the world
with a vision of the holy and discovering the divine in the earthly task at hand." This is the inspiration for John's creative
vision and the driving force for his art.
To John, art is a social act meant to engage and empower the viewer. He sees himself as one who holds up the
values of the community and retells its important stories so we can reconnect with the shared communal values that form our
cultural roots. John's richly narrative art explores the diversity of the human experience with an emotional simplicity and
spiritual directness. It gives a fresh perspective that empowers us to see the familiar events, scenes and stories of our lives
with a renewed and revitalized vision.
Much of John's art is inspired by the many stories in the Bible. His creative, visual re-telling of these ancient
tales enable us to see them with new eyes and rediscover their power and meaning for our own lives. They become parables of
everyday life enabling us to see the sacred in the ordinary and embrace anew the wonder and mystery of life. He reminds us that
God is always there. We just have to take the time to look, see and feel His presence.
John Swanson's art has been displayed in some of the world's most prestigious venues. These include the
Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, The Art Institute of Chicago, London's Tate Gallery, the Vatican Museum's
Collection of Modern Religious Art, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, among others. Candler School of Theology at Emory
University in Atlanta has 55 of John Swanson's art on permanent display and is the largest single collection of Swanson's art
in the world.