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

Susan Swartz "The Most Interesting Lecture You'll Ever Attend"

Susan has long been an impassioned defender of human rights. Over the past decade, she and her husband, Jim, have helped produce important films that seek to shed light on injustice, like Born Into Brothels, which won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary and Anita: Speaking Truth to Power, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Susan has also brought her own strong voice to conversations like the panel on “Women’s Rights in a Man’s World” held earlier this year at Harvard University. And now Susan is bring the humans rights conversation to her hometown of Park City, Utah.

On December 4, Susan is honored to be teaming up with the Harvard Divinity School and the Christian Center of Park City to host a lecture by Hauwa Ibrahim based on her new book Practicing Shariah Law.

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Hauwa Ibrahim is a senior partner at Aries Law Firm. Working with a team devoted to human rights for women in Nigeria, she has won a number of precedent-setting cases before Islamic Shariah courts. Ibrahim has been a Visiting Professor at Saint Louis University School of Law and Stonehill College, a World Fellow at Yale University, a Radcliffe fellow, and a fellow at both the Human Rights Program and the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard University. 

The European Parliament presented Ibrahim with its 2005 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which honors efforts on behalf of human rights and freedoms. Ibrahim has earned an LLB and a master's in international law and diplomacy from the University of Jos in Nigeria; a BL for legal practice from Nigeria Law School; and a master of laws degree in international studies at American University's Washington College of Law. In addition, she has been awarded three honorary doctorates, as well as the Cavaliere Award, the Highest Human Rights Award from the Italian Government. She is also featured in an upcoming film entitled Three Judges (see the trailer ›).

Susan invites the community to come hear "one of the most interesting lectures you’ll ever attend".

Details

Where: The Egyptian Theatre 
328 Main Street, Park City, UT 84060 

Cost: FREE and open to the Public 
Seating on a first come, first served basis 
Suggested Donation $15 

“Women’s Rights in a Man’s World” – Harvard Divinity School Panel Discussion

Susan was honored to support the Divinity School at Harvard University by sponsoring the February 28th panel about the barriers facing women hoping to work within Shari’a law courts. Titled “Women’s Rights in a Man’s World,” the panel featured Kholoud Al-Faqih, the first female judge in a Palestinian Shari’a court, as well as several other notable female law leaders.

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Harvard Divinity School Leading the Way

Jim & Susan Swartz, Barbara & Dean Bill Graham

Each spring, the Harvard Divinity School (HDS), of which Susan is a member of the Dean's Council, hosts a Leadership Day devoted to thinking through global issues about faith and religion.

This year, Susan was honored to say a few words about retiring dean, William A. “Bill” Graham. “Bill is one of the most open and warm people that I have ever known,” remarked Susan. “He [helped] me to understand how my art flowed from my spiritual self, connecting me with the work of this great institution and the progression of religious expression through art over time.”

During the 2012 HDS Leadership Day celebration, Dean Graham focused his speech on the theme that tackling religious illiteracy is crucial to peace and progress worldwide. Graham, who has been studying, teaching, and writing about religion for more than half a century, called religion one of the least-understood sectors of life for the majority of people worldwide. He also called for policymakers to have some grasp on the religious dimensions of life in other nations and for cultures and people to understand that their value systems are not uniquely valid,  good or applicable to everyone in the world. Watch Dean Graham's speech, Why Study Religion in the Twenty-first Century?

About Dean Graham’s departure from the HDS, Susan said, “We at the Divinity School are losing an incredibly talented leader and friend.”

Harvard Divinity School Commends Susan Swartz's “Spiritual Lens”

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The current issue of the Harvard Divinity Bulletin features a long article by William A. Graham, Dean at HDS and respected Harvard professor and scholar. In “Reading the ‘Book of Nature’,” Graham uses the collection of paintings in Susan’s book, Natural Revelations, to explore the “venerable tradition of artists who find in nature their prime window on the divine.”

Coupled with reprints of Susan’s paintings, Graham’s prose takes readers from Plotinus, to the Qur’an, to Ralph Waldo Emerson, all the while noting the links between art, religion and nature. Writes Graham:

Swartz’ electrifying paintings focus in particular on the wonders and the magnificence [of nature] — an emphasis that echoes the oldest spiritual and aesthetic intuitions of our species. Her art radiates the conviction that nature reveals that which transcends our physical universe and our fragile experience as mortal beings in a perilous passage through a world vastly larger than ourselves or even our imagining.

This article was first published in Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Summer/Autumn 2011, Volume 39, Numbers 3 & 4. If you’d like read Graham’s complete article, please visit hds.harvard.edu.

Remembering Susan Swartz's Solo Exhibition at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts

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Susan’s recent solo exhibition at the Springville Museum of Art brings to mind her first showing of the Natural Revelations exhibition at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) in 2008. Wrote UMFA museum director, David Dee: “While grounded in the real world of nature, Susan Swartz’s work also connects us to the pure energy and devotion to color that have characterized abstract art from the mid twentieth century.”

The UMFA exhibition ran January through April 2008, and the opening reception was a major gala fundraiser dedicated to expanding the museum’s exhibition and acquisitions program. “This was my first museum solo showing,” recalls Susan. “The highlight for me was the success of the opening reception fundraiser. I am glad my work could help create further support for the UMFA.” Then Utah Governor Jon Huntsman gave the opening remarks, while Keith Lockhart, musical director for the Utah Symphony and conductor for the Boston Pops, acted as master of ceremonies. Dean William Graham from the Harvard Divinity School also spoke at the black tie gala.

David Dee sums up the exhibition in the forward to Natural Revelations: “Susan Swartz creates art that expresses her deep love of her craft, or nature, or the spiritual—and inspires us, as viewers, to pause and take stock of our own relationship to the earth, to the divine and to future generations that will inherit the globe we have inhabited.”

Susan Swartz's Story

Susan Swartz

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.”