UNIVERSITY NEWS | Artist John August Swanson’s productive and influential career at the intersection of art, faith, and social justice is being recognized with a proclamation from President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., expressing Loyola Marymount University’s gratitude for his contributions to the university’s culture.
Swanson, who is being cared for at the St. John of God Retirement and Care Center in Los Angeles, received a framed proclamation of the LMU President’s Award, the highest non-degree recognition that the university can bestow. “This is a very exciting moment in my life that someone would record,” Swanson responded in a handwritten note. “To be looked at not only on one level but on other levels, not just art but my work for justice and faith.”
Swanson has dedicated his life to elevating social justice by sharing his love of our planet and its inhabitants with citizens across the globe, including the LMU community. He is a major figure in the world of art who humbly marches with the poor to call attention to the beauty and fragility of God’s creation.
“In honoring John August Swanson, we recognize a transformative artist who reflects our values and our Catholic, Jesuit, and Marymount traditions,” said LMU President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D. “John has inspired generations of students and community members through his creativity that enriches our humanity. And his paintings — all so wondrously beautiful!”
His 1982 painting “The Procession” graces the collection of the Vatican Museum of Modern Religious Art through the sponsorship of LMU. This work immortalizes a vision of community where Latina and Latino worshippers spill outside the church, carrying with them the communion of saints and the tradition’s stories to bring about and celebrate a transformed world. Swanson’s work is also featured in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museums of American History, American Art, and Air and Space, recognizing him as a gifted interpreter of the American story from communities of color whose works deserve appreciation and preservation.
The Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Harvard’s Fogg Museum, and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris include Swanson in their collections attesting to the innovation and artistic depth of his work. His art also hangs in many sacred spaces including the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels; several universities such as the Candler School of Theology, Luther Seminary, Concordia University, and LMU Westchester campus.
Swanson is a native of Los Angeles, the son of a Mexican seamstress and a Swedish vegetable seller who arrived in L.A. in search of a better future. Swanson devoted his life and art to interpreting the beauty and promise of this region, its history, and its diverse communities and cultures. He attended Loyola University from 1957-59 and counts professors, student organizations and the campus art collections as formative experiences. At Loyola he immersed himself in Catholic Social Thought and community organizing; he discerned his future to be one of service.