Local Artist Richard Swenson Donates Lobo Sculpture To UNM-Los Alamos

Richard Swenson’s incredible Lobo hanging outside the Learning Resource Center (Building 7) on the UNM-Los Alamos campus. Photo by Sarah Jimenez/UNM-LA


Los AlamosThe University of New MexicoLos Alamos (UNM-LA) is pleased to announce a donation of artwork to the university’s permanent collection. The donation called “Lobo”, is an original piece by one of Los Alamos’ favorite local artists, Richard Swenson, demonstrating his continued generosity.

Swenson is a Los Alamos-based artist, who attended a one-classroom country school (grades 1 – 8) in North Dakota. Afterwards, he went to an Agricultural High School designed for children of farmers with very limited education. Students only went to school for 6-months out of the year.  After high school, Swenson worked on his father’s farm for two years before joining the Navy, where he became a Navy Seal. After serving, he used the GI Bill to enroll in college at the University of North Dakota (UND). He studied very hard and was unwavering, just like the Lobo. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and mathematics and later earned a Master of Science degree in nuclear physics, also at UND, which led him to a career in nuclear reactor physics and underwater acoustics. Throughout his career, Swenson received numerous awards, including the prestige Solberg Award from American Society of Naval Engineers, and held 25+ patents.

“I hope that this Lobo, made to appear fierce, will remind students that they too are fierce,” said Swenson, “as well as bring them, the faculty, and the Los Alamos community personal enjoyment.”

“UNM-LA is incredibly grateful for Richard Swenson and his generous donation to our students and our campus,” remarked former Chancellor Cynthia Rooney. “We are fortunate, not only to be gifted with his talented artwork but also with the story of his victories throughout his educational career. He is an inspiration and an ambassador for higher education, as well as an astonishing artist.” 

On the prairie where Swenson grew up, life depended on the muscle power of man and animal. He greatly admired tractors when his family acquired their first one, after having used horses for the same job. He eventually took to collecting John Deere Tractors and restored 64 of them. 

Although Swenson was heavily involved in the world of science and technology, he was still strongly connected to the natural world. In the year 2000, after pouring himself into restoring tractors, he began to create sculptures of animals by welding together scraps of farming machinery and left-over tractor parts, thus connecting the natural world and the industrial world. 

Swenson’s work is on public display and held privately around town in Los Alamos and White Rock. It can also be found in private, corporate, and in museum collections in New Orleans, and Carlsbad, New Mexico.

The Lobo will reside outside on building 7, at the entrance of the UNM-LA campus. An unveiling of the sculpture will take place at 11:15 am on November 1st on campus.  The official unveiling of the Lobo will be to honor Richard Swenson, a treasured jewel of this community, and to celebrate the significance of the Lobo to UNM-LA students and this campus. 

Richard’s wife, Vivien Chen, said “We also feel honored to have a piece of Richard’s sculptures displayed at the UNM-LA campus. The Lobo with its fiercely fighting spirit and determination are what Richard wants to convey to the students in UNM-LA. Regardless of your background, you can have your dream and achieve your goals by education, with perseverance and of course the unwavering spirit of the Lobo.”

Swenson would also like to recognize those who assisted him in the creation of the Lobo, specifically, Jacob Apodaca whose contribution was significant as he helped in most of the welding, as well as Louie Pescador and Omar.

UNM-Los Alamos is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities. More information about UNM-Los Alamos is available at losalamos.unm.edu.