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Innovative materials inspire artist

Beth rickers/daily Globe Paul Swanson is flanked by three pieces of his artwork on exhibit in the Fine Arts Building at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus.

WORTHINGTON -- Roofing tar and latex paint are generally used for home improvement projects. But Paul Swanson has found some innovative uses for them in his artwork.

"I was looking for something that ran a little bit more," Swanson explained about his use of latex. "Acrylic is a firmer paint, and latex I could pour or splash a little bit more.

"With the roofing tar, I was trying to get more texture into my paintings when I was in college. I needed to find something that would stick, but would be different from the paint."

An exhibit of Swanson's works, including both his Expressionist works and sports caricatures, will open Friday in the Fine Arts Building at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus. A graduate of Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall with a degree in arts education, Swanson is currently employed by New Dawn Inc. in Worthington.

This is only his second solo exhibit -- the first being his senior exhibit in college a number of years ago.

"The first one was more monochromatic; I've got more color this time around," he reflected. "The theme of the Expressionist part was 'The Light of Truth' in my original show, so this is probably 'The Light of Truth Phase II.' The philosophy is trying to find the way past the dark things in life -- the sins -- and trying to find heaven or Christ."

A cross image can be found in several of the Expressionist paintings, such as one titled "The Healing Blood," in which the cross is made from driftwood found in Freedom Shore Park in Worthington.

In advance of the show, Swanson worked on some new paintings, but he also incorporated some of his best works from over the years, including a figure of a Native American dancer from the early 1990s.

"It's interesting to see the difference in the years, the changes. Before, they were really dark; now they're lightening up over the years," said Swanson, explaining that his use of dark colors came partly from his study of classical artists but was also indicative of his mood.

The show includes examples of Swanson's work in oil, acrylic and those other unique mediums that he has incorporated.

"I'll start with charcoal as a base," he explained about his Expressionist pieces, "and make the image first, and then do sort of a reverse action by covering up the image I started with. ... I'll put down Gesso or watercolor and let them dry, then come back with latex and layer that. If I do tar, I do that before the latex."

The caricatures are definitely a departure from the Expressionist paintings, although, at the advice of Minnesota West art instructor Bobbie Alsgaard, he's considering combining the two in some future works.

"The caricatures mostly come from sports," Swanson said. "I've got one that's soccer, one that's a couple of tennis players, one football player. I guess it shows my own interests. I have one with a little girl hitting a long drive on the golf course. Those are usually acrylic, so I have to work with it faster than I do with oil. ... Sometimes I just draw it on a sheet of paper and then sketch it out on canvas and work from that."

Swanson enjoys the variety of working in both Expressionism and caricatures, and he hopes viewers will find their own inspiration in the images he has created.

"I think the reflection of my faith in God would be the main thing," he said. "Hopefully, I can bring some energy and joy to others through it."

The exhibit of Paul Swanson's paintings will open with a reception from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Minnesota West Fine Arts Building. It will continue through Feb. 19.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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