Although 19-month-old Salem Swanson doesn’t know it yet, she’s going to be The Suffering Artist’s next owner. At least that’s what her mom and art gallery owner Sarah Swanson says. Swanson said when she was younger, she would tell her little sister Katie that she would be an art gallery owner one day, and Katie would have to babysit for her.
“For years that dream really seemed like it was shot because (my husband) Chris and I couldn’t have any kids, and finally, after 12 years of trying, we were blessed with Salem through adoption,” Swanson said. “Now it’s like all the pieces are falling into place. We have an art gallery and we have this little baby running around who will be the future owner. This has been a really fun endeavor for me and Chris, and now that we have Salem, like I’ve said before, it’s a dream come true.”
The Hogansville art gallery has been open since February 2016.
Swanson said she decided to open it after walking across the street with a friend and seeing the building’s for sale sign. Her friend told her to put a gallery there.
“I called the realtor and she showed me that space (at the entrance of the gallery) and then this space at the back of the gallery, which was fire damaged and really dilapidated,” Swanson said. “And I looked at this space and just saw the potential, and I was like ‘this would be a big project, but it’s affordable. I really want to do it.’ So we bought it, and Chris and I spent a whole year remodeling. We gutted it and turned it into what it is now.”
The gallery got its name because Swanson feels she is never quite satisfied with what she creates.
“I’m always just itching to get better or to get where I want to be artistically,” Swanson said. “I think that probably represents a good bit of artists everywhere that the creativity we’re searching for always seems like it’s out of reach. We’re striving for something that feels beyond ourselves. It feels like the name captures that feeling.”
The gallery hosts about six shows annually, including the veteran’s exhibition held close to Veteran’s Day. Swanson said recently they have been showcasing young artists work.
“We recently had a show of two art grads from Georgia Southern and they’ve never exhibited before in a professional gallery,” Swanson said. “We want to encourage arts in the young, and those who really don’t have much of an opportunity. We want to be a real open gallery and give opportunities that other galleries don’t give.”
In addition to young artists, Swanson said she wants to hold an annual art show that has collaborations from children and artists. The event would be held in March, which is National Youth Art Month.
“This coming March we’re going to start an annual show where I think we’re going to title it ‘And a Little Child Shall Lead Them’ from the Bible,” Swanson said. “There will be artists who collaborate with children to create pieces of art, so that’s another way of encouraging young artists.”
The gallery also does monthly sip and paint classes.
Currently, Swanson has some of her own work on display along with Thea McElvy and Derek Mills. Swanson’s work on display is photo realistic.
“My theme is called ‘Death by Carbon,’ and the art is taken from Popular Mechanics magazine images where I’ve taken those images and pushed them a little bit by adding surreal elements,” Swanson said.
“But I’m keeping the realism in how I rendered the pieces.”
This includes having pieces such as showing a polar bear and scuba diver side-by-side.
Swanson said she’s created art ever since she was little because her mom was an artist.
“We always had paper, pencils, markers, crayons always on hand, so every year for Christmas we’d get big boxes of art supplies,” Swanson said. “It was always something encouraged in our family, and I guess that kind of pushed me toward majoring in it.”
Swanson said even her husband, Chris, who works in economics and finance, has an artistic side.
“People look at me an artist and him a finance guy, and we’re complete opposites, but he’s got an artistic side if you look at what he’s done with this building,” Swanson said. “My brother said one time that the space is like a three-dimensional frame for the art that comes into it, and it really is. He’s made it a very beautiful building.”
Being the gallery owner, Swanson said she enjoys the process of getting artists and preparing for shows.
“Chris and I love to hang [items for] the art shows, figuring out where to place stuff. It’s like the real mechanical side of it,” Swanson said. “I love that too. And then it’s fun to have these shows, to see the people who come and just to see their reaction of each piece. It’s a real satisfying feeling.”
Swanson received a bachelor’s of fine arts from Augusta State University.
Because it’s hard making a living as an artist, Swanson got her nursing degree in 2010 and works on the med surge floor of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan.
“I love nursing too, so it’s a good mix,” Swanson said.
For Swanson, running the gallery with Salem at her side is a dream come true. For Salem, this is only just the beginning of her career.
“[The gallery] hosts group shows, we host individual solo exhibitions and joint exhibitions, and Salem is the future gallery owner,” Swanson said.