Jon Swanstrom is a fringe artist with a strong aversion to 9 to 5 and societal confinements.
Creating outside the perimeter of mainstream art, Swanstrom is free to express himself without restraint, staying far from the spoon-fed ideals offered by the media and the masses. As society is urged to consume more and upgrade often, Swanstrom is fiercely loyal to what’s left behind; taking the old and discarded and giving it aesthetic purpose. “There’s a lot of beauty in old stuff,” he said.
Swanstrom, 45, began recognizing the beauty in old stuff at 10. His father bought and sold vintage items at places including the annual Custer Show. Swanstrom also began playing the guitar around that time. He attended Mead High School and started his first band in 1980, Citizenz Beware. A dozen more bands followed and so did tours and records.
For the last 20 years, Swanstrom has been paying the bills by buying and selling vintage items, answering to no one except himself and his personal taste. He also got involved in film making, producing, directing and editing short films and music videos and acting in Headjuice Productions.
Recently, he was the director of photography, co-director, research coordinator and assistant editor for a feature length documentary called “Spokanarchy!” which is a chronicle of a progressive movement in Spokane from 1978-’88.
Swanstrom has an eye for the interesting, the industrial and the conceptual. Being involved in a progressive movement in his youth, he expanded his horizons to outside of the box, where he resides today.
Walking into the warehouse/home Swanstrom shares with his wife Heather, a visitor immediately thinks, “This is not the norm, but wow, that’s cool.” One huge room is filled with stuff; treasures from the past, an American picker’s dream. Their living quarters are minimalistic and include an old and battered cement sculpture of a resting deer and a large beat up metal sign.
About a year ago, Swanstrom made a natural transition from music, film and the past to creating visually curious works of art. Onto salvaged items like sheets of plexiglass, canvas and corkboard, Swanstrom applies layers of images with an array of materials. The finished pieces are almost commercial, reminiscent of pop art from the ’60s and ’70s, vintage figures from long ago.
Swanstrom had his first art exhibit at the Globe Bar and Grill, 204 N. Division St., last year where he sold about 20 pieces. He has displayed his work a couple of times since and continues to sell. He and Heather (also a musician and involved in film work) are considering starting a new band and they sell their wares online and in the Fremont District in Seattle. “I think being involved with outsider music and art is a wonderful curse,” he said, “Not fitting in is painfully transformative, and awakening.”