Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Adam Swanson Opening at the Zeitgeist

Last night after work I was able to slip over to the Zeitgeist Arts Café here in Duluth to catch the opening for Adam Swanson's new show featuring 35 paintings. The turnout was strong, and the space filled with lively discussion and energy. I saw that Swanson’s vibrant colors are as vibrant as ever. And though many of his themes remain -- windmills, penguins, bicycles – there are other themes appearing.

Before coming to Duluth Swanson lived for 3 years in Ithaca, NY working as a book and manuscript conservator (and also painting) and later moved to Antarctica for a 9 month contract position fixing and working on boats used for science, the apparent inspiration for those penguins which add salt and pepper to his colorful scenes.

When he arrived in Minnesota he settled into a cabin on the north shore of Lake Superior, eventually finding a spot in Duluth to work on art full-time. His home away from the studio is Zeitgeist Café where he serves as a bartender.

Swanson’s whimsical work has appeared in numerous venues around town including, most prominently, Lizzard’s on Superior Street.

In a 2010 interview Swanson said he has been making art since he was a child, but began to take it more seriously during his undergraduate degree in studio art at UMD. “I paint now because it's the best way I can think of to make imagery that grabs people and expresses some of my ideas. I like to paint because it is a meditation that I have on an idea. Painting is something I am working on getting better at, so that I can communicate more clearly.” He added that he loves all art forms and would love to get into sculpture or film someday if the opportunity arises.

His influences include Vincent VanGogh, Andrew Goldsworthy, Talouse Lautrec, Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison, Edward Gorey and many more.

The bicycles, which appeared in much of his early work have a symbolic value, representative of human ingenuity. “They have character and are very lovely, efficient machines,” he said. “Bikes are also a great way for me to experiment with my technique. They are complicated objects with lots of little bits and pieces and it has been fun to (try and) pare it down to minimum components. Most of the bikes I paint are of friends or loved ones. Many are of the 1969 Schwinn Cruiser my dad gave me.”

Swanson primarily chooses to paint on masonite rather than canvas. “Masonite is cheap and sturdy, and often made of recycled materials. I have thought about painting on birch or some type of wood, to lower the acidity (though I am not sure it would). But masonite always seems to be so much flatter and straighter. And I gesso it up pretty good before painting.”

The artist currently lives in Duluth’s Central Hillside. You owe it to yourself to make an effort to check out his show sometime soon.

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