A member of the and the , Ray Swanson was raised in rural South Dakota and settled in Carefree, Arizona. He first visited a Navajo Reservation in Arizona in the early 1960s, and from that time, many of his subjects have been Southwest Native Americans--the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Apache Indians. He is especially known for depicting children and smaller animals belonging to these tribes and for the beauty of their traditional costumes.
He attended a one-room schoolhouse in South Dakota and was early recognized for his art talent. His father was killed when Ray was young, and the family moved to California where he enrolled at the Northrop Institute of Technology in Los Angeles. He worked full time as a draftsman and studied aeronautical engineering. For six years, he was a civil engineer in Redlands, California, and during that time married Beverly, his high school sweetheart.
He also began to paint, encouraged by his wife and friends, and he displayed his work at the curio shop he and Beverly opened in Oak Glen near Los Angeles. Gallery owners in New Mexico and California began carrying his work, and he became a full-time painter.
In 1973, he and Beverly sold the shop and moved to Arizona where he has continued to paint the Native Americans. He also paints some landscapes and seascapes in both watercolor and oil and travels widely in search of subject matter beyond Arizona.
In 1979, he was named Arizona Artist of the Year and in 1986 was voted into membership of the . He is also a signature member of the .
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Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas. Site last updated January 2004.