Susan Swartz is an artist on a journey, her body of work tells a story – it quietly whispers of her innermost inspirations to those who take the time to simply be with each painting. Over the course of her career, Susan has explored realism, impressionism, expressionism and has recently arrived at a more abstract resting place, her work now leaves more open to interpretation than ever before.
From May 30 through July 4, 2014, Susan's work will be exhibited at the Kollegienkirche Salzburg in an exhibition entitled A Personal Path. The Kollegienkirche, or University Church, of Salzburg was constructed between 1694 and 1707 and was designed by Fischer von Erlach, a master of Baroque architecture. The church is hailed as one of the most magnificent examples of Baroque architecture in Austria and inspired the design for numerous other sacred buildings in the region and in Germany. Now a part of the University of Salzburg, the church has undergone extensive renovations over the course of the past twelve years and recently reopened. The exhibit will be the first of its kind in the newly renovated church, marking an renewed era of recognition of the enduring artistic nature of the human spirit.
Susan’s creative spirit has been at once nurtured and challenged by nature. Making her home on the ocean in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts as well as in the dramatic Wasatch Mountains of Utah, Susan draws on the splendor of the scenes that lie just outside her window, just beyond her door. As she has endeavored to discover how best to represent the beauty around her, Susan has found freedom in the truth that God is the original artist. “If God is the creator, all I have to do is interpret,” she says.
The notion of a personal path rings true to me. My path has included many opportunities to use my love of painting to share my beliefs with others. I sign every piece I paint ‘GTG,’ or Glory to God. I am inspired by the natural world, and informed by prayer. I pray before I touch brush to canvas, I seek God’s guidance and inspiration daily and I look beyond my studio for ways to take action to bring about greater love and appreciation for nature, and for human dignity.
Susan’s relationship with the natural world has, at times, been tenuous, as she has fought both mercury poisoning and Lyme disease. The challenges she has faced, brought on by manmade environmental factors, have shaped her desire to inspire others to be watchful and intentional stewards of God’s gifts to us: pure clean air; land and water uncontaminated with industrial fertilizers, chemicals and toxins; non-GMO organically produced food.
Many of the pieces on display in Kollegienkirche Salzburg tell their own stories, passages from the overarching tale of Susan’s collection. Landscape of Resonances 004 and Landscape of Resonances 012 are ambassadors of a larger series encompassing thirteen paintings to date. With a title that invokes the musical realm, the pieces in the series share a common tonal layering, reminiscent of the layers that build an orchestral masterpiece; one atop another, commenting on each other.
Susan’s piece entitled Layered Light comes from an entirely different chapter in her career and presents the viewer with a definitive horizon, suggesting the interplay of sunbeams on the surface of water. The piece asks the viewer to consider more deeply what they see on first glance and to draw from their own experience to derive personal meaning from the interaction of the bold colors, the lines that are simultaneously distinct and blended. Light in it’s many tones and forms colors our view of the world, here Susan creates an opportunity for the consideration of this most basic and essential element.
Emerald Spirit provides visitors with a perfect example of Susan’s ability to produce paintings that beg to be interpreted, rather than merely seen. From a distance, the piece holds out its brilliant green tones and vertical form. As the viewer approaches, the layers of blue, red, yellow and white emerge and questions arise about our perception of what is right in front of us. Inspired by the beauty of the Emerald Isle, Susan painted a series of pieces with strong green hues following a visit to Ireland. The fusion of various other colors in the piece, while a creative rendition of what was seen, is in fact realistic— for no scene of nature is without texture or movement. For as bold at Emerald Spirit appears to be, it is in many ways one of Susan’s more delicate paintings. The wispy suggestion of a forest with a gentle Irish spirit passing through, truly makes this piece an emerald gem.
Visitors to Kollegienkirche Salzburg are also treated to four pieces from Susan’s recent Contemplation series. Contemplation 2, 6, 11 and 12 are displayed as a grouping – playing counterpoint to each other. From afar, the pieces appear quiet and peaceful, inviting the viewer to visit the inner recesses of a busy mind or to take pause and appreciate the importance of stillness. In close proximity, it becomes apparent that each piece is a riot of bold color, blanketed by softer tones and richly textured. In each piece, different elements are exposed while others are entirely masked. Each piece stands alone with an identity entirely separate from the rest and yet the four together create a harmonious whole far greater than the sum of its parts.
The exhibit is aptly named, for it represents the journey Susan is on to express herself, her beliefs and her interpretations through her painting. Susan’s work is, at its very core, an illustration of her personal experience. The simple beauty of art is that each viewer is entitled to their own journey and will walk their own personal path as they view the pieces on display.
Today, in a world so bitterly torn by disagreement and discord, in a time so fraught with distraction and reliance on technology for fulfillment, A Personal Path at Kollegienkirche Salzburg is a haven for reflection. The great stone walls of this glorious church hold back the worries of the world beyond, encouraging visitors to connect with each other, with the paintings and with God, in whatever form He may take in their hearts.
A Personal Path is made possible through the efforts of The Salzburg Foundation.