Gladys Swan

Gladys Swan is a visual artist and the author of eight books of fiction. She teaches workshops on the creative process around the U.S. and abroad.


Although I have spent most of my career as a writer, I have had a long love affair with the visual arts, beginning with a painting class in high school. During the '70's I worked in ceramics and was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship from the Lilly Endowment to spend a year on a project in art and mythology. I have been carried along in that trajectory ever since. In recent years I have concentrated on painting and ceramics and have taken a number of classes at the University of Missouri-Columbia and at Columbia College.

My fiction and poetry are part of an effort to explore what the imagination can know, the kind of truth it can apprehend. My work tends to gravitate between the "real" and the fantastic, for this approach allows me to try for

some kind of truth. Such an approach is the basis of my painting as well. Though I have an interest in starting from "reality,' my aim is to discover a certain essence that lies behind it, to reach a point where inner and outer worlds merge, where the image, in taking on its colors, so to speak, becomes dream, somehow more vivid and real by doing so.

The fundamental impulse behind my writing has been a quest for vision.

Working in various media has been challenging and enriching. Several of my stories and poems deal with art and artists, some of which have been published in the Sewanee Review. A story, "News from the Volcano," was

published with a lithograph that emerged from the same source of image. One of my paintings was used as cover art of an issue of The Literary Review in which my fiction also appeared. Other work has been published in various literary magazines and has been used for the covers of two of my books, including the recent collection, A Garden Amid Fires. Several years ago, I was the first writer since the inception of the Vermont Studio Center to receive a fellowship for a residency in painting, and I also return as a Guest Writer. Painting has considerably enlarged my sense of the creative imagination.

For five years I have taught a workshop in The Writing Salon in Taos, based on my experience: "Heightening Imagination: "Drawing and Writing from the Image."