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

Combining Spirituality With Nature: Susan's Trip to Bhutan




The Kingdom of Bhutan is a land of startling beauty and aesthetic contrast: craggy peaks and verdant valleys, fraying rope bridges stretching across milky blue glacial rivers, terraced rice paddies and stone templates strung with faded prayer flags. Much has been made of Bhutan’s promotion of Gross National Happiness as its primary national measurement.


A New York Times T Magazine article quoted Kinley Dorji, the head of Bhutan’s Ministry of Information and Communication explaining the principle: “When we say ‘happiness,’ we have to be very clear that it’s not fun, pleasure, thrill, excitement, all the temporary fleeting senses. It is permanent contentment — with life, with what you have. That lies within the self.”


This fall, Susan traveled to Bhutan and was bowled over by the country’s astounding natural beauty and the rich otherness of its culture. As Susan absorbed the country’s dramatic wild spaces and its complex modern history, she was most struck by the pervasive relationship of Bhutanese spirituality to the landscape. And the evident outcome of this connection indeed felt like a deep contentment.


“I have always sought refuge and inspiration in nature,” explains Susan. “And while the religious language and the landscapes of Bhutan are foreign to my own background, the reverence for the divine in nature was immediately familiar.”


The universality of this ecological spirituality inspired Susan to create two new paintings. Both large-scale works of acrylic on canvas are dominated by the deep green hues that characterize the country, with layers of nuanced texture and meaning.


Bhutan - Rice Fields and Prayer Flags (48 x72) is a characteristically large painting that conveys the contagious joy and that Susan observed and felt throughout her travels in Bhutan. The fecund hues of green dominate the canvas, recalling the productive rice paddies and lush forested mountainsides. This vivid green is punctuated by energetic accents of white and yellow, like playful prayer flags waving in the sunshine.


September (48x48) With a name that references a Buddhist ecological allegory, this square painting depicts a more intimate and peaceful view of the Bhutanese forest. The textured abstractions of rich greens and yellows convey the forest as the unfettered and eternal source of vitality of and youthfulness.