Susan Swartz: Seasons of the Soul

Three exhibitions will be on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts June 17–October 2, 2011: Pressing Ideas: Fifty Years of Women’s Lithographs from Tamarind, The Guerrilla Girls Talk Back, and Susan Swartz: Seasons of the Soul.

Susan Swartz: Seasons of the Soul features thirteen of the artist’s abstract landscape paintings in an intimate, single-gallery presentation. The works, dating from 2005 to 2010, reflect the progression of seasons that Swartz witnesses from her studios inPark City, Utah, and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Installation view of Susan Swartz: Seasons of the Soul

Installation view of Susan Swartz: Seasons of the Soul

Swartz lavishes her paintings with thick, confident brushstrokes that express nature’s vibrancy. For example, Autumn Song (below) depicts a blaze of red-leafed trees silhouetted against a brooding purple sky. The tree trunks are flickering, loosely painted verticals, emerging from a golden field that rushes toward the viewer. Swartz’s Autumn Song and other natural abstractions suggest both real landscapes and the potential for spiritual transcendence in nature.

Image of Susan Swartz's Autumn Song

Autumn Song, 2009; Acrylic on linen; 20 x 20 in.; Private Collection

 Swartz’s paintings achieve a tension—through thickly applied paint, bold colors, and the sensation of motion—that reflects her personal story. The resilient artist, who struggles with two environmentally-based illnesses, Lyme disease and mercury poisoning, has turned to art as a source of healing. She transforms her struggles into an oeuvre that captures nature’s juxtaposition of tranquility and drama. She is a dedicated environmental activist and has been involved with a number of award-winning documentaries on environmental issues and social injustice, including The Cove, Mercury Rising, and Under Our Skin. Swartz’s paintings convey her reverence for the power of nature as well as her belief in humankind’s responsibility to act as its steward. For more information about Swartz, please visit her website.  

Image of Susan Swartz's Purple Majesty

Purple Majesty, 2008; Acrylic on linen; 72 x 72 in.; Private Collection


 NMWA’s curatorial department will lead tours of this exhibition on Member Day, Thursday, June 23, at 11:00am, 12:30pm, and 2:00pm.

NMWA is also pleased to present a film series in conjunction with this exhibition, “Linking Environment, Healing, and Creativity.” Each film will be preceded by a talk from a distinguished speaker. The first film, The Science of Healing with Dr. Esther Sternberg, will screen Monday, June 20, 7 p.m., with Dr. Sternberg as speaker. Other noted speakers for the series include Judith Helfand, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Eden Wurmfeld. For additional information on this exciting film series and to make reservations, please visit NMWA’s online calendar.

—Catherine Southwick is the curatorial intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

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