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News / Clark County News

Community mourns Camas artist Angela Swanson

She was known as ‘backbone’ of many area artists’ groups

By Doug Flanagan, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: September 16, 2023, 6:03am
2 Photos
Clark County artists Angela Swanson, from left, Deborah Nagano, Elizabeth Nye, Regina Westmoreland and Tamara Dinius, and Ellen Nordgren (not pictured) joined together earlier this year to form the Adret Artist Collective.
Clark County artists Angela Swanson, from left, Deborah Nagano, Elizabeth Nye, Regina Westmoreland and Tamara Dinius, and Ellen Nordgren (not pictured) joined together earlier this year to form the Adret Artist Collective. (Contributed photo courtesy Angela Swanson) Photo Gallery

Camas-Washougal artists are mourning a Camas artist known as “the backbone of many art organizations in the Clark County area.” Angela Swanson, 54, a founding member of the Artisans Guild of Camas, died unexpectedly Aug. 24, following heart surgery complications.

“Angela was the spoke in the hub of Camas artists,” said Camas resident and jewelry artist India de Landa, who co-founded the Artisans Guild of Camas with Swanson, Deborah Nagano and Toni McCarthy. “She always made time to help others and to give freely. She was always there to bounce ideas around and help; one day she showed up at my house with art supplies she knew I could use. Angela enjoyed life, creating art and giving of herself to others.”

Swanson’s memorial and celebration of life service will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Adret Artist Collective studio, 814 S.E. 357th Ave., Washougal.

Nagano said Artisans Guild of Camas members will sell artwork during the memorial service to help raise funds for Swanson’s family.

Swanson’s artwork has been exhibited on the Mosaic Art Alliance and Society of Washington Artists’ websites, as well as the Vancouver-based Phoenix Gallery and Latte Da Coffee and Wine Bar, and was featured in the annual Washougal Studio Artists Tour.

Swanson also served as an artist in rotation at the Ford Gallery of Art in Portland, and was a member of the Washington State Artist Trust, a Seattle-based nonprofit that supports working artists throughout Washington, and the Adret Artist Collective, a Washougal-based group of artists dedicated to creating unique, thought-provoking artwork that explores the boundaries of mixed media and multimedia techniques.

She also founded and managed an art consortium called Sweet Papaya Arts, and served as a webmaster and social media coordinator for several Clark County arts organizations, including the Southwest Washington Watercolor Society, the Clark County Arts Commission, and the Society of Washington Artists.

“Angela Swanson was one of the kindest, most generous and giving human beings that I have ever known,” Nagano, of Camas, said. “She gave with joy. She was selfless and supported her friends and the art community. I question whether she ever slept because it was not uncommon to get emails from her at 3 a.m. asking for an opinion on a project she was working on.”

Swanson discovered her passion for art relatively later in life. The former financial consultant and urban planner started painting in 2017, dabbling in a variety of different mediums, including paint, collage, watercolor, oil, wax and acrylics.

“Angela was one of the most enthusiastic and fearless artists I have ever met,” McCarthy said. “She loved everything about creativity and imagination, and she used both without hesitation. She experimented with paints, designs, found objects, mosaics and more. And she loved color and bold designs, seeing it everywhere and every day in her own work and in the work of other artists.”

At the time of her death, Swanson was working on a series of art pieces she called “Femme Unique,” which were made up of colorfully painted, wall-mountable mannequins, each inspired by a specific philosophy or idea.

“Angela’s artwork is filled with bright colors and unique designs,” de Landa said. “I love her mannequins embellished, painted with designs that make you smile. Her recent textiles were stunning, and I use one of her colorful throws on our dining room table. I will always think of Angela when I use it.”

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Swanson told The Post-Record in 2022 that her approach to art was “very diverse.”

“I do a lot of different things,” Swanson said. “That’s why I like mixed media because you can try a lot of different mediums and combine them. And my subject matter is very diverse, too. I kind of lean toward doing abstracts with a little bit of realism in them.”

Swanson “was a very special human who freely shared her love of the arts in as many ways as she could,” according to Sharon Buckmaster, co-president of the Artisans’ Guild of Camas.

“She loved to teach ‘newbies’ and seasoned artists alike whatever new discoveries or tricks of the trade she thought would help them ‘do art,’ however they defined it,” Buckmaster said. “She loved encouraging artists of all abilities to stretch their horizons. She volunteered her time generously, whether it was to staff a children’s art booth for Camas Days or to help a new artist learn how to photograph their work for art shows.”

Nagano said Swanson, who married her longtime partner Cole McLester earlier this year, “had been an advocate for an organization supporting the mentally ill and had worked with abused women.”

“Angela was a caregiver in life. It was part of her DNA,” Nagano said. “She was only here for 54 years, but she lived so fully and did so much.”