James Swinson is a West Coast artist living and working in both Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. He is an innovator and strong advocate for the arts, working in all aspects of the art community, and dividing his time between curating, showing, and making art.


His paintings and mixed-media combines have appeared

in a number of television and film productions including CSI: New York, Lost, Brothers & Sisters, Without a Trace, and Men of a Certain Age.

Participating in many fundraising events, he has worked with art organizations and galleries such as Pro Arts, Creative Growth Art Auctions, Childrens’ Light, and the LA County Cultural Affairs Department.


As a sponsor with his time and art, he is extremely passionate about the development of the CAN Gallery in Oakland.


james swinson

mixed-media artist + singer/songwriter

photo: james patrick dawson

The CAN Gallery may very well be the longest running alternative gallery space in Oakland’s SOHI district. Over the years, it has seen many incarnations, from shows of emerging artists to a network for writers, painters, songwriters and musicians.


The shows range in scope from interactive video and audience participation pieces, to installation art, music and performance. From punk art to political pop: contemporary art with a slant toward the avant-garde, underground spirit.


James Swinson’s work evokes some of these same philosophical sentiments. Through the use of color, size and scale, the use of words and text, photographic transfers, mixed media prints and works on canvas, wood, metal and other materials, he has created a vast, diverse body of work, spanning over the last two decades. He has established his artistic credibility; taking chances, mixing and fusing styles, materials and techniques.


He draws from a wide range of influences, from straight painting reminiscent of early 50’s abstraction to 80’s neo-expressionism and beyond. His latest creation of 22 new paintings, what he calls “punk pop collages” successfully address another issue. Post modernism with a twist? Has punk art finally grown up? The work is sophisticated and mature, cohesive and stylized, while still maintaining a raw, unpretentious, youthful energy.


From his first solo debut show of large scale rhythm drawings back in 1984, to the 1998 East Bay Painters and Graphic Artists’ show at Oakland Coliseum (curated by Arthur Monroe and sponsored by the Oakland Museum), to his 2002 solo political pop show “Between Life and Art,” and most recently being selected by Marian Parmenter, curator for SFMOMA Artists’ Gallery to participate in the 2005 Bedford Gallery show “Local Voice: Defining Community Through Art,” he has continued to prove his commitment to surviving and thriving as an artist.


Whether in the studio painting, writing, recording music, or performing, as an artist and musician, he has stayed true to his dream; writing songs like a storyteller, playing guitar with a hard driving rhythm, and painting like there’s no tomorrow.


In his own words: “Take risks. Don’t second-guess your decisions, think of the bigger picture to alter your perception and evoke change. Keep an open mind. Always ask questions, push your limits, and question the very nature of art itself.”