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Richard Swenson, a local sculptor who focuses on creating art from unaltered objects such as scrap metal parts found in junk yards and repair shops, displayed his work for visitors of Betty Ehart Senior Center. Featuring animal shapes such as frogs, penguins, bunnies and crabs, the display cases can be found on the second floor lobby of the center.
The central theme of Swenson’s sculptures is “The Primacy of Nature Over the Industrial Society.” Born and raised on a ranch in North Dakota, the sculptor experienced a world without electricity, running water, or indoor conveniences. His childhood world, unaltered by industrial society, focused on the relationships between man and animal, something that most children of the current generation are not likely to comprehend.
“It would be a lonesome place in this high-tech world without animals, for we are one of them,” Swenson said, in a quote that stands out within the promotional pamphlet for the display.
His work has been shown at local venues such as the New Concept Gallery in Santa Fe, as well as out-of-state establishments, such as the Louisiana Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge, and the Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans.
At the Louisiana Art and Science Museum, 30 of his sculptures were displayed alongside an exhibit from the creators of Sesame Street.
With such achievements, one would be surprised to know that, in his lifetime, Swenson was a Navy SEAL, and made a career out of acoustic research in support of anti-submarine warfare.
He started sculpting after retiring, in an attempt to keep himself busy. During that time, he began collecting John Deere tractors, and using the extra parts for his sculptures.
“We live in an advanced industrial society in a swamp of information and material complexity that overwhelm us,” Swenson said. Through his art, he attempts to use this material complexity in a creative manner.
The display can be visited during regular senior center hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday.