BEMIDJI – When asked to name the genre or school of painting that Paula Swenson’s work most closely exhibits, philosopher Stephen Hicks describes the style on the website “An Artist’s Voice.”
Post-Post Modern artists’ imagery originates in the mind and the “result is an object that, at its best, has an awesome power to exalt the senses, the intellects, and the passions of those who experience it,” Hicks said.
Upon entering the studio what is immediately apparent in her paintings is the use of color – vibrant colors – to set the mood of the piece. The senses are heightened and the passion of the painter and the model or scene leaves no room for questions or doubt.
Swenson, one of the artists for this year’s Bemidji Studio Cruise Oct. 19-21, will open her studio at 1017 N. Plantagenet Road SE to visitors and display her paintings, museum quality archival prints of her work, transfer and digital prints, including cards of her more familiar pieces exhibited around Bemidji. Swenson, a graduate of the Minneapolis College of Arts and Design, began painting at the foot of her mother, artist Shyrl Peterson, at a young age. When other children took crayon to paper, Swenson took brush to canvas.
Swenson pointed to one of her teachers, Bernie Quick, as being instrumental during her college years as a painting major. Although her mother was the first to recognize Swenson’s nascent talent, the work of mother and daughter bear little resemblance to each other.
“I use traditional methods for setting up a painting,” said Swenson. “When you look, you see that the painting relates to itself (balance), all the lines relate to each other and the overall surface is treated similarly as far as paint thickness.”
There is an ancient Japanese saying, “Line missing, thought present” that most art students hear. It means that the continuation of a line or the petals of a flower are in the mind of the beholder and it fills in what is missing.
This past summer, Swenson worked with five teens on one section of a three-part (tryptic) mural that will be displayed on the outside wall of the MacRostie Arts Center in Grand Rapids. Swenson’s application was selected from a number of artists who applied for the teaching/collaborative effort. She and her students selected a fanciful story of Judy’s Garland’s hometown complete with rainbow. The mural will be unveiled to the public sometime this fall.
“When I moved here from the Cities I was afraid of all that I would be leaving behind but there is a wonderful arts community up here,” said Swenson. “I just love it.”