There is something unique about Salzburg. Like many European cities, it is rich with history and alive with the hum of modern technology and life. Like so many other cities, the stones of its churches, palaces, schools and homes tell stories centuries old. Yet there is something distinct about Salzburg. It is a city of music, dance and artistic expression in immeasurable and innumerable ways.
Occupying just shy of nine percent of Austrian territory, Salzburg is the fourth largest city in the country. Surrounded by lakes, rivers and mountains it has been a seat of inspiration for artists since well before its official annexation into Austria in 1815.
Perhaps most notably, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born, lived and worked in Salzburg for much of his life. Other musicians native to Salzburg include Johann Haydn, brother to Joseph Haydn, and Joseph Mohr, little known for his composition of the ubiquitous Christmas carol “Silent Night.” More contemporarily, it was the setting for the real-life drama of the Trapp Family Singers, which was later translated to screen and stage as The Sound of Music. To this day, the Salzburg Festival attracts and features musicians and classical dramatic artists at the top of their professions.
In the public perception, visual art sometimes takes a backseat to the more broadly known classical music tradition but in fact, the city of Salzburg is home to nearly 50 galleries and museums with rotating exhibitions of work from the classical to the contemporary. Since 2002, the Salzburg Foundation has actively worked to raise awareness of the visual arts around and within the city, displaying pieces by internationally renowned contemporary artists designed specifically for selected sites throughout Salzburg.
The decision by the Salzburg Foundation and its partner, the Foundation for Art and Culture, Bonn to curate an exhibition of Susan Swartz’s work at the University Church in Salzburg fits neatly with the city’s history. Salzburg is a spiritually rich city with a largely Catholic background, to this day it maintains its deep respect for the holy and divine.
Additionally, with the city embedded in the Austrian alps and framed by beautiful bodies of water, it is a perfect setting for the consideration of the nexus of God’s everlasting power, the fragility of nature and the role that we play as spiritual beings and stewards. Susan’s work is the conversation starter, each piece is a talking point in this essential discussion of where we’ve come from and where we’re going, the world over and in localities such as Salzburg.
The question of inspiration, of what inspires a person to express their gifts and talents for the benefit of humanity, is essentially a question of what we sense. We are inspired by those things we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste and how these sensations make us feel. In addition to looking to the world around her for inspiration, Susan often listens to music while painting. And so, this city where music reigns supreme speaks to more than one point of origin for her work.
The relationship between music and the visual arts is undeniable – both disciplines express the inner workings of the human mind and soul. On a more technical level, both music and painting draw upon the notions of theme, pattern, tempo, tone and variation. The building blocks that created Mozart’s masterpieces are the same as those employed by Susan as she sets brush to canvas.
This fundamental commonality among different forms of artistic expression is what makes art universal. And so, even thousands of miles away from Park City or Martha’s Vineyard, Susan’s work speaks clearly to people from all backgrounds. There is certainly something unique about Salzburg. For all of its history of conflict and allegiance, of religious and political evolution, its people ultimately cherish the things that bind us. From May 30 through July 4, Susan’s paintings will play a part in finding new ways to bring people together in this city of music and art.
To learn more about Susan’s upcoming exhibition at the Kollegienkirche Salzburg, please visit the exhibition gallery.