By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Susan Swinand was the recent prizewinner of the 18th ArtsWorcester Biennial, also known as The Sally Bishop prize. This award is an ongoing gift that is presented once every two years to a very talented and deserving candidate.
“I met Sally decades ago at a lecture,” Swinand recalled. “She came up to me after the lecture, introduced herself and encouraged me to enter the show, which I won 35 years ago. It wasn’t as big a deal back then because the Worcester Art Museum did not give the recipient their own show.”
As winner of the biennial now, the artist receives the opportunity to have a one-person show at the Worcester Art Museum.
“Winning this is like a dream come true for me,” Swinand said. “I have such a sense of fulfillment. It’s a validation that someone is responding to what I am doing. It’s like soul-to-soul communication. Whether you hate it or love it, that’s the purpose of it. It makes you think and that’s how the culture is built. When I think about making art, I realize that it is still painting that I find most challenging, engaging and rewarding.”
“I am so thrilled for Susan. All of her life, she has loved art and she is a true artist,” said her husband, Lou.
Swinand uses many different mediums to create her art, including wood, acrylics and watercolors. She finds painting to be meditative and typically does not plan or draw out her paintings beforehand. She loves to focus on nature and shapes that can be interpreted in many ways.
The series of works for which she won the Biennial award was titled, “All in Together,” with a theme of flux and change.
“I was trying to get shapes that feel active,” she explained. “I can’t stand artwork that is just filled in. We’re all the same, yet interdependent. One thing cannot exist without the other. You’re supposed to bring some new thoughts or a revelation to your work. The painting becomes a metaphor for creation.”
Swinand’s love of art began in kindergarten. She studied at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and majored in painting. She received a fellowship to study in Europe and went to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. She has exhibited throughout the east coast and is a signature member of the American Watercolor Society.
She had a large acrylic, titled “Becoming,” at the Danforth Art Museum at Framingham State and also at the Berman Museum at Ursinus College. She has taught for almost 20 years at Wellesley College, decades at the Worcester Art Museum, and Clark University as an adjunct professor.
“I am so excited about getting older and happy that people will see what I do. I have hundreds of pieces of artwork and I know that sharing is a big part of making it. It means a lot. I have lived in this neighborhood for 35 years and people on my block probably don’t even know that I’m an artist,” said Swinand.