Blog

The news of artist, environmental activist, documentary film producer and philanthropist Susan Swartz.

Margaret Mee: Reflections on an Amazonian Woman

Before settling into her summer painting season in Martha's Vineyard, Susan traveled to the Amazon this spring.  The Amazon Basin is a place palpably alive, and Susan could not just see and hear, but also feel the air pulsing with vitality there. During her travels, painterly images kept coming into her mind—bright colors and rich brushstrokes. Many years ago Susan was introduced to the work of another woman painter who she very much admires, British painter named Margaret Mee. Mee spent quite a bit of time painting in the Amazon in the middle part of the 20th century. “I see a lot of parallels between Margaret’s life and my own,” explains Susan. “Like me, she was an environmental activist and was plagued by environmental health problems. Also like me, she was a fiercely determined woman who painted her entire life.”

Mee’s lavish paintings of orchids and bromeliads from the Amazon rainforest represent more than the life and spirit of a talented artist drawn to adventure.  The Audubon House, which published a collection of Mee’s work said this about the socially-conscious artist-explorer: “Her precisely painted visions of the vanishing rainforest lay a vibrant testimony to the struggle between nature and commerce, thus working to preserve the wild habitats she painted and loved.”

Mee was killed in 1988, not in the wilds of the Amazon, but in a car accident in her home country of England. Despite her tragic end, Mee’s influence is evident in an entire generation of activist painters, including Susan.