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  • John August Swanson examining serigraph proof of Washing of the Feet
  • John August Swanson examining serigraph proof of Madonna of the Harvest
  • John August Swanson and Jean Erish

    John August Swanson   |   Printmaker, Painter, Storyteller

  • 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.