Between writing and recording his own solo records, touring intercontinentally playing keyboards with The Shins, and producing records with musicians like songwriter Damien Jurado and Portland’s dreamy up-and-comers Pure Bathing Culture at his studio National Freedom, Richard Swift is a busy human.
Swift’s show Mt. Mountain opens at the Division cafe today, revealing inky black and white paintings, whose surfaces are often emblazoned with scribbled text and a dark sense of humor. Swift lists influences like Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac, Bo Diddley and Captain Beefheart and outsider artists Bill Traylor and Royal Robertson.
His artist statement reveals a bit of insight into his process:
And only his humor, his vinyl collection, his libations and his canvas — whatever his canvas may be — are there to keep him from crossing that oh-so-thin and fragile line into madness. If you should see themes and reoccurring characters in Swift’s black ink pieces, it’s likely these are the themes and characters that kept him just to this side of that line.
We caught up with him in his studio in Cottage Grove and asked him a few questions about his life and work — and from here, it’s tough to tell which side of mad he’s hollering from.