Susan Swartz creates vibrant landscape paintings from her studio in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. An official artist of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, she is well known to public and private collectors alike, and just wrapped a solo exhibition at the Springville Museum of Fine Arts in Utah. There is an underlying energy and tension to Susan’s work that hints of her complex relationship with the natural environment. “Mankind’s carelessness with the natural world has had a very personal effect on me,” she explains. “Twice I have struggled environmentally caused illnesses.”
In the late 90's, Susan was diagnosed with mercury poisoning, most likely from eating fish from contaminated waters. Six years later, she was struck with Lyme disease, probably contracted through an infected mosquito. “I came this close to dying,” Susan says. “My spiritual reverence for the natural world and my painting kept me going.”
Today, Susan still combats the effects of illness, but has found new purpose both in and out of the studio. She is an activist who works with renowned environmental crusaders, like Dr. Jane Goodall and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who writes that Susan “captures what is both sacred and divine in nature…in her work I find refuge and inspiration.” Susan serves on the board of the Harvard Divinity School and the Salt Lake Film Center, is a trustee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and co-founded the charity-based The Christian Center in Park City.
Since becoming ill, Susan has also become deeply involved in the production of documentary films that seek to shed light on an injustice. Films touched by Susan include Academy Award nominees and winners, as well as Sundance Film Festival award winners.
Susan’s ordeals have also inspired a change in her artwork. “While my illnesses wreaked tremendous havoc on body and spirit, they also shook me out of my comfort level as an artist,” she says. “The art I am now creating is more impassioned, more profound, more achingly full of desire than anything I have created in the past.”