An exhibition of black and white photographic portraits of Winona residents by Jon Swanson opens on Friday, February 28, from 5 to 8 p.m., at Public Launch Winona. On display are 40 photographic portraits of Swanson’s friends, acquaintances, and of complete strangers. His subjects sat for a portrait, participated in the selection process, and answered a questionnaire used to create a text panel to complement each photograph. These short text panels serve as conversation starters for visitors to connect with the subjects of the portraits. Swanson explains, “I strongly believe we are all characters and have something to say, so I want to portray a wide and varied sample of people living in my community. Visitors to the exhibition and online galleries will learn about and connect with people in Winona they may not know personally.”
In 2017, he created the first “Winona Characters” exhibition and photographed more than 150 Winonans. He noted, “Although I have more than 35 years of professional, academic, and personal photography experience, I have never been comfortable shooting formal studio portraits of people. Approaching strangers for portraits is very difficult for me, but yet very rewarding. The first version of ‘Winona Characters’ and the feedback from my subjects, the community, Facebook and website comments, and exhibition visitors was overwhelmingly positive. Shooting portraits challenges me as an artist and I want to continue to improve and expand my technical skills and to increase the aesthetic quality of my photographs to the best of my ability.
Photography is not my profession, but my passion, and this exhibition will serve me and members of my community.”
Swanson has educational and professional backgrounds in fine arts, art history, nautical archaeology, and is the curator of collections and exhibitions at the Minnesota Marine art Museum since opening in 2006.
Both the 2017 and current exhibition were awarded $5,000 established artist grants from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC). This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
This project relates directly to the vision and mission of Public Launch Winona, 119 East Third Street, a collaborative space that welcomes folks to work together and share their stories and cultures. This sometimes looks like potlucks, entrepreneurial networking events, community conversations, lectures, musical performances, art exhibitions, and many other things in between. The space is founded on the belief that people’s everyday living culture (and cultural heritage) is as worthy of attention as more institutional forms of art and performance. Its events are free and open to everyone. Learn more at artoftherural.org/public-launch-winona/.
The exhibition and opening reception are free and open to the public. The gallery is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through March 29.
Learn more at jonswansonphotography.com and facebook.com/winonacharacters/.