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

Breaking New Artistic Ground

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A guest blog entry by Robin Marrouche, Director of the Kimball Art Center of Park City, UT

The art world is legendary for taking risks, but the Catholic Church less so. That's in part why tonight's grand opening of Swartz's exhibit "A Personal Path" at the breathtaking Baroque Kollegienkirche cathedral in Salzburg is so special.  It falls on May 29th, the Day of Ascension, and is a major honor and feather in the cap of the career of a American artist. The creative collaborative concept is an actual breakthrough and is making headlines in Europe for bringing contemporary art to an unlikely setting.

The show was the idea of German visionary Dr. Walter Smerling, Chairman of the Foundation for Art and Culture in Bonn Germany. Dr. Smerling has conceived of and initiated public art projects with some of the most famous artists in the world over the past decade in Salzburg, such as Marina Abramovic and Anselm Kiefer. His goal has been to transform the city which is known as a musical epicenter  - being the birthplace of Mozart - for its famous summer concert series into a year round compelling and culturally rich visual arts destination. Dr. Smerling saw Susan's work in the Belgravia Gallery in London and it gave him the idea and inspiration to propose the concept to the Mayor, the Salzburg Foundation and the leaders of the Church to see if they would take the literal leap of faith with him.

Swartz and Smerling are blazing new trails by marrying modern abstract expressionism in such a traditional and conservative setting as an historic and landmark church.  The result is an extraordinary marriage of art and spirituality in a unique modern context. It has to be seen to be believed. It also embodies two of Susan's greatest passions, her art and her faith with the opportunity to be shared by all. The church itself is breathtaking and is a substantial part of the landscape of this incredibly beautiful European city. To see modern works of art adorning its grand walls is visually subtle, stunning yet very powerful and ethereal at the same time. One is moved beyond words by the exhibit's impact upon entering the cathedral. It feels like it is breaking some unwritten rule to see contemporary art in a Baroque church, but it works beautifully on so many levels and floods its interior with a sense of light, color, grace and energy.

"This opening is immensely meaningful to me" remarked Swartz. "My spirituality has always been a partner to my painting. I draw on my faith whenever I paint, wherever I am. Being in Salzburg with my paintings in this beautiful historic church, I feel the same flood of passion. This pairing of art and faith is, in my mind, as natural and perfect as can be. I am delighted and honored."

Dr. Smerling concludes that this remarkable exhibit, A Personal Path marks a major turning point for the Salzburg Foundation which has broken new ground with this project.  Tonight's opening will be attended by art critics and patrons from around the world, including the renowned architect Sir Norman Foster which is an amazing tribute to Susan's talent and widespread appeal. The show will be on display through July 4, 2014.

Art and Architecture, A Synergistic Relationship

Harmony is a state of coexistence, it is achieved when two or more entities complement each other and enhance one another’s effects. It is ubiquitous, but when things are in perfect harmony we rarely give a second thought to the disparate elements at play.  The connection between art and architecture is too often forgotten, an example of a harmonious relationship.

An oversimplification of the relationship, many people assume that in any given case, architecture provides structure to a built environment and that art is decorative. This is a reasonable assumption, given the minimal amount of time most of us spend contemplating our environs on a daily basis. But what if we stopped and took a closer look?

If we paused and examined the inner and outer façades of the buildings we pass by, inhabit, work and play in we might see that architecture is a form of visual art. We might also recognize that those artistic pieces incorporated into or onto buildings tend to feel integral when they are well suited to the space. In fact, some even seem to be of the building, an extension of the architecture itself or a key element of the design.

From May 30 through July 4, we will be presented with a unique opportunity to further consider this relationship. As the doors of the University Church in Salzburg open to reveal the work of Susan Swartz, on display for just six weeks in this auspicious space, a case study lies before us. 

The Kollegienkirche, located just off of the bank of the Salzach river, is widely recognized as one of the most pristine examples of Baroque architecture in the world. The city of Salzburg is known for the uniformity of its architecture on the whole, a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a well-preserved example of a city-state at the intersection of German and Italian styles.

The hallmark of Baroque architecture is the interplay of shadow and light due to the nature of the design. The ornate features of the Baroque style create a sense of movement and a dynamic energy that intrigues the eye. Contrary to earlier classical styles, Baroque architecture treats ornate, three-dimensional elements as integral the structure rather than superimposing them on the surface of other elements.

Interestingly, Susan Swartz is known for her employment of a layering technique in her painting. Rather than striving to give the impression of dimensionality in her work, she allows the paint to physically mask and unveil itself in various ways. Perhaps there is a common tie between the style of the Kollegienkirche and the pieces Susan will display on its hallowed walls.

Something happens, though, when a piece of art is precisely placed on a wall in a beautiful setting. Our experience of the piece and of the space itself changes. We might notice the light playing over the surface of the painting and changing what we see, depending on our vantage point. Invariably, a painting hung in an interior space is impacted by the sources of natural light within the structure.

So, the structure comments on the painting, in a way. But it is not a one-way conversation. It is human nature to find similarities among our surroundings, even unwittingly. A brilliant, colorful painting hung in a beautiful church could not help but draw the eye to the intricate side nave altars, alive with rich and vibrant hues.

People do, of course, display art in homes, workspaces and myriad other venues with the intent of decorating the interior space.  We so quickly lose the broader benefit of surrounding ourselves with works of art when we deny the important interaction art should have with space and light. By noting the interchange between architecture and art and actively encouraging the two to mingle, we could enhance our daily experience immensely.

Susan Swartz has a broad range of work to display in Salzburg. As you look through the exhibition gallery, consider the elements at work and play in each piece. Every painting has unique formal elements, lines and curves, shadows and ornate detail – much like the architectural elements of the University Church, these paintings stand alone and work together, in harmony.

Salzburg: A City of Music and Art

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

In Tribute To Karen Glass Shah

It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of my family member, best friend and business manager, Karen Shah. Many of you who frequent my website or do work with my Studio knew her on a personal level, but there’s no doubt in my mind, even if you never spoke with her or met her, all who  share my art are in some way touched by Karen’s presence.

I’d like to leave a few  thoughts and memories of Karen on this terribly sad day. There is great comfort in remembering the beautiful, positive things about those who have graced our lives and moved on, often far sooner than we imagined possible, to rest with the Lord.

Karen’s love of life, her engaging flirtatious style, her startling beautiful red hair and her contagious laughter will be with us forever.  Without fail, Karen was a steadfast friend. This singular trait shone through in all of the roles she played; as a wife, a partner, a mother, a sister, a daughter, an employee, a supervisor, a neighbor or a confidant, Karen’s reliability, loyalty, sense of humor and kind heart were always evident.

What better quality exists in a friend than the ability to approach difficult situations with strength, humor and graciousness? Karen did not shy away from life or its challenges. She brought the full force of her abilities to bear when confronting adversity.  She personified the power of remaining positive, but more importantly perhaps, the power of remaining true to oneself when facing trying times.

Karen persisted in demonstrating for her family, friends, colleagues and even complete strangers, a constant compassion and kindness. Her tenacity was admirable.  She showed me, and I believe others too, that there is no shame in admitting we have weaknesses and flaws; our downfall comes when we stop believing we can be better tomorrow than we are today, despite our imperfections.

I take great comfort in Karen’s legacy to my family – that she believed tomorrow could be better than today; that we are not alone in facing down our greatest trials and that we can find strength within as well as with each other, and with God. I hope that everyone who had the pleasure of knowing Karen will take time to reflect on their own memories of her and will carry her with them in some way going forward. I am already missing her terribly.



Susan Swartz to Exhibit at Kollegienkirche in Salzburg

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.



Modern West Fine Art to Represent Susan Swartz in Salt Lake City

Anytime a new gallery opens its doors, an unspoken invitation is issued to whet our palates on the delightful unknown. Beckoning to seasoned art collectors as well as those venturing into the art world for the first time, Modern West Fine Art seeks to further define the landscape of contemporary Western art and perhaps give us a glimpse of the future.

Pioneered by Diane Stewart, an established collector and stalwart supporter of the arts in Utah, and Donna Poulton, a renowned curator, historian and art advisor, Modern West promises to refresh our collective understanding of the landscapes, portraits, sculptures, collages and textiles that comprise the contemporary movement in the west.

A longtime friend of Susan's, Donna Poulton penned the introduction to the catalogue for her "Natural Revelations" exhibition at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in 2007.  With her understanding of the emotions and ideas Susan means to impart to the viewer, along with her recognition of what remains to be interpreted and drawn out independently, Donna will serve as steward to some of Susan's work as Modern West Fine Art represents Susan in Salt Lake City.

The first two of Susan's pieces to reside in the gallery's gorgeous new space in the Edison Quarter will be Contemplation 8 and Contemplation 9. These paintings are both bold and intricate, a combination that encourages reflection on the power of the unseen; the layers beneath the surface offering up their strength and supporting the delicate tones of white which meet the viewer on first glance.

Featured alongside Susan will be artists Mark Eberhard, Phil Epp, Bale Creek Allen, Ed Mell and Logan Hagege, to name just a few. The stunning initial collection assembled at Modern West Fine Art represents the potential for incredible things yet to come.  

Susan Swartz Featured at The Winter Art Salon in Deer Valley

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At the height of the Park City ski season, nestled in the ambient lower ballroom of the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, the Kimball Art Center presents a salon which dances with light and color. Featuring a variety of work that speaks to every taste, the Winter Art Salon plays host to pieces by Susan Swartz, Dale Chihuly, Linda Lee Johnson, Alexandra Hart, Nelson Mandela and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales from February 21-23, 2014.

The brilliant sheen of Chihuly's famous glasswork alongside the warm glow of Alexandra Hart's gold jewelry complements Susan's depictions of the delicate interactions of the natural elements. Linda Lee Johnson's sculpture and jewelry stand apart and reflect her long history of creative exploration of physical form. The Belgravia Gallery of London, which represents Susan in the United Kingdom, presents the signed lithographs of Prince Charles and the late Nelson Mandela; providing a rare glimpse into the artistic expression of these two remarkable leaders.

A central tie for several of the presenting artists is a sense of environmental responsibility, an ethic that Park City espouses exquisitely. Susan has woven scenes of natural beauty, both realistic and abstract, throughout her collection as a means of drawing attention to the importance of environmental stewardship. Dale Chihuly's glasswork is reminiscent of forms and figures from the natural world.

Alexandra Hart is well known for her use of ethically sourced materials and conservative fabrication practices; her socially responsible bent is highly regarded throughout and beyond her industry. Linda Lee Johnson's pieces often depict flora and fauna, enabling viewers to devote their attention to the meaning of the natural world in their lives.

Prince Charles has a longstanding legacy as a passionate environmentalist; in many ways he was a visionary long before his time, pioneering the organic movement in the UK and leading the charge on climate change. His lithographs depict scenes of his favorite places including Scotland, images of both the landscapes he loves and some of the homes associated with his life and that of his family.

In his lifetime, Nelson Mandela was a champion for sustainable development in his homeland and the world over. He envisioned a world in which "work, bread, water and salt for all" would be a reality. His lithographs cast light on the hardship of his time spent on Robben Island and remind viewers of the great leader who stood against adversity and for human and environmental rights.

On the whole, The Winter Art Salon at Deer Valley is a window on the world through the eyes of masterful artists, some of whom also represent local, national and international social and environmental interests. Susan's decision to exhibit pieces from her Landscape of Resonances, Nature's Mirage and Contemplation series, among other works, speaks to the breadth and depth of her collection and her genuine desire to start a conversation about we care for the world around us.

Susan Swartz Descending Into a Rich Mash

With daylight savings suddenly behind us, the days of growing darkness are here. The paradox of light and shadow brings necessary balance, and not only in a painting. As an artist, Susan embraces this darkness as a ballast for the brightness of spring. And, she knows that in any season, the natural world offers both beauty and terror, both life and death, both light and dark, all combined in a rich mash. 

In this season of change, Susan is struck by the words of poet Mary Oliver:

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