A close-up of Rhian Swain's painting of Kali. Photo courtesy Rhian Swaiin
A close-up of Rhian Swain's painting of Kali. Photo courtesy Rhian Swaiin

Artist sees evolution in recent works

Self-Healing by Rhian Swain hung at Sacred Heart. Courtesy photo

 When Rhian Swain created her “Breaking the Barriers” exhibition focusing on female artists, she had no idea that some of the barriers she’d break would be her own.

First shown at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History in March 2023, the exhibition not only features portraits of female artists, but Swain painted them in their signature style, pushing her own techniques and styles.

“My work has really evolved over the past year and a half to two years,” said Swain, whose new paintings will be featured in a show in collaboration with Yuliia Wilson at Sacred Heart Cultural Center from May 8-June 21. A reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 7.

Read more: Female artists at center of exhibition

Rhian Swain. Photo courtesy Rhian Swain

It was during that time that Swain also decided to put as much focus and effort into her personal artwork as she did her business, RedWolf Advertising.  Her work became more intentional, and she sought to get her paintings in other art exhibitions.

She’s always painted, but when she started treating it as a second career rather than a side gig, her paintings began to change – much to the artist’s delight.

Another part of her evolution has been to allow clashing sides of her creative brain to come together.

 As a child, she studied the masters. Artists from Michelangelo to Mary Cassatt influenced her early drawings.  Studying at an art college introduced her to symbolism and abstract styles.

“I love painting Easter eggs and hidden symbols,” she said.

Sometimes the wide ranges of styles don’t mix, leading to that conflict within Swain.

Artists Staci Swider and the late Philip Morsberger urged her to push past worrying about ruining a painting with experimentation and just allow the process anyway.

Art by Rhian Swain. Photo courtesy Rhian Swain

“I have ruined several paintings,” she said.

That circles back to breaking those self-imposed barriers and taking risks even if they don’t always work out.

Some of the new works on display at Sacred Heart also focus on female characters – this time those of more divine nature – goddesses from different cultures but with a modern twist. Aphrodite is reading her Kindle drinking coffee, and graffiti artist Kali is painting a Day of the Dead mural. That series has a sense of humor, and she’s enjoying creating it.

The Sacred Heart show isn’t the only one she’ll be working on this year.

“Breaking The Barriers” is set for a local return in the midst of its three-year tour, and she’ll be curating a show in the fall at the Ann and Ellis Johnson Gallery at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts.  

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnews.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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