Arvena and Her Herd is a major Ray Swanson painting. Consider the contrasts in textures, colors, light, the distinctions between the young girl and her sheep and the sun-blanched rocks, the flashes of green in the leaves that halo the girl. The folds of the girl’s red dress point in a triangle up from the sheep that circle her. In this world, she is life and light.
Ray Swanson was born in rural South Dakota and educated in a one-room schoolhouse. After his father passed away, the family moved to California where Swanson studied drafting and aeronautical engineering and became a civil engineer. When he inherited a box of paints from his grandfather, Swanson began to paint farm subjects as a hobby. But the budding artist fell for the Native Americans of Arizona: the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and Apache, and came to the happy conclusion that their way of life would make an excellent subject for a professional painter.
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