By Tia Lynn Ivey
The Morgan County African American Museum (MCAAM) hosted a reception for local artist, Eugene Swain, on Sunday, June 12. The MCAAM is displaying Swain’s paintings for public viewing until August 12 at the museum, located at 156 Academy Street, in Madison.
“It was a full house,” said Betty Terrell, office administrator for the MCAAM. “People came out, people came out in full force. It was a steady flow from the time we opened the doors and until the time we closed them.”
According to Terrell, Swain’s locally-focused artwork resonates with people from this region. Swain’s paintings primarily focus on disappearing relics of the rural south, such as deteriorating barns, farmhouses, and slave sharecropper cabins and rusting tools and farming equipment amidst the backdrop of rural Georgia scenery.
“He paints about the southern life. Most of his paintings reflect the buildings and landscapes of the rural south. He even has paintings of local residents’ old family homes that are still standing. A lot of folks are just thrilled to see their ancestors’ home-place in his paintings,” explained Terrell.
According to the MCAAM, Swain has been an artist most of his life, learning to draw pictures of his surrounding at an early age. He started to paint in oils in 1981 and up until 1985, his paintings were done for family, co-workers and friends. His early works was mostly portraits. In 1985 he started doing art and craft shows and commenced selling his work to the public. Today Eugene is still doing these shows but has expanded to doing commission work in acrylic and oils. His work is on display in local galleries and across the United States. Eugene is the artist in residence for the Morgan County African American Museum. Eugene is married to Glenda Swain and they have two daughters. He and his wife still resides in Morgan County, Buckhead.
According to Swain’s artist bio from Abandoned Rural America, “Eugene was born in the Southern historic town of Madison, Georgia. Madison is the county seat of Morgan county and is known for it’s surviving pre Civil War antebellum architecture. He attended Springfield school for a short time until they were moved to Pearl High and Elementary in the mid 60’s where he was always busy drawing. When he graduated from High School he never gave up on his dream of becoming an artist. Eugene spent most of his early years creating one thing or another, mostly toys that his parents were unable to buy him when he was little. He would make cars, trucks, campers and other toys that he liked. In the eighties he started experimenting with water-colors. At this time he was painting mostly portraits for family and friends. What he really wanted to paint though were old houses and barns. He began using oils to do his paintings and today he paints with acrylics. Eugene likes traveling the back roads of rural Georgia to take photos of old barns, houses, and cows as subjects adding his own unique style to his paintings. Eugene also likes creating models of the old farm houses and barns that he comes across using whatever materials that he can find around the structures, sometimes using wood from the abandoned buildings.
He is also a self-taught musician and plays the guitar each Sunday at the Plainview Baptist Church, his family’s home church. His family feels that he has been blessed by God to have been given the talents that he has.”
“I hope everyone who has not seen his work will come out to the museum to see it and to continue supporting this talented and gifted local artist,” said Terrell.