Animal advocate, painter and former “M*A*S*H” star Loretta Swit talks feminism, activism and art

Loretta Swit’s book uses art to advocate for animals

Loretta Swit is best known for her role as Maj. Margaret J. “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the acclaimed 1970s and ’80s TV sitcom “M*A*S*H,” but her life’s work has been to protect animals.

Swit — not only still acting but also painting at age 79 — heads to the Santa Monica Public Library on Monday to discuss her new book “SwitHeart,” a collection of her watercolor portraits of animals and the stories of animal activism behind them.

With each painting, Swit tries to “capture the feeling of the animal,” she says, “so that people can look into their eyes and see the soul.”

All proceeds from sales of the book go to support her nonprofit SwitHeart Animal Alliance, which channels funding to animal welfare nonprofits around the country, including the Wildlife Waystation in Los Angeles and various efforts to rescue farm animals and stop puppy mills.

Swit may also be open to discussing her portrayal of Houlihan: “an ambitious, tough, intelligent woman,” she says, who in the show’s Korean War field hospital setting “was a feminist before we knew the word for it.”

— Joe Piasecki

Loretta Swit speaks from 6 to 7:45 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 13, at the Santa Monica Public Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. Free. Call (310) 458-8606 or visit smpl.org.

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