Brooklyn-based artist Swoon celebrates everyday people and explores social and environmental issues with her signature paper portraits and figurative installations. She is best known for her large, intricately-cut prints wheat pasted to industrial buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
For this exhibition, Swoon creates a site-specific installation in our rotunda gallery, transforming it into a fantastic landscape centering on a monumental sculptural tree with a constructed environment at its base, including sculpted boats and rafts, figurative prints and drawings, and cut paper foliage. Often inspired by contemporary and historical events, Swoon engages with climate change in the installation as a response to the catastrophic Hurricane Sandy that struck the Atlantic Coast in 2012, and Doggerland, a landmass that once connected Great Britain and Europe and that was destroyed by a tsunami 8,000 years ago.Swoon regularly pastes works depicting people, often her friends and family, on the streets around the world. She usually pastes her pieces on uninhabited locations such as abandoned buildings, bridges, fire escapes, water towers and street signs. Her work is inspired by both art historical and folk sources, ranging from German Expressionist wood block prints to Indonesian shadow puppets.
The majority of Swoon’s street art are portraits. She believes that we store things in our body and that a portrait can become an x-ray of those experiences. She wants her portraits to capture something essential in the subject. She tries to document something she loves about the subject and has seen in him or her. It is a way to connect with the subject. By putting the portraits on the streets she is allowing for others to witness this connection and make their own.
Her art would only be seen by those affluent enough to go to galleries and buy art. At the same time she was trying to find what she describes as context. She wanted to become part of the world. Her response to this desire was what she believes to be a very literal one: she glued her art to walls. Wheat pasting became a way for her to discover and understand her impact in the world. She describes that as a young women she did not have a sense of her ability to make a change. By putting up a small wheat paste, she was able to transform a wall and it would be there when she walked past it the next day. It was a tiny literal change.
Her artistic process is predicated on the belief that art is an immersive, provocative, and transformative experience for its participants. Although Swoon’s aesthetics can be seen as an outgrowth of street art, her engagement with ethical living and making art share a close kinship with the idealism of off-grid, barter-based cultures and economies based on sharing. She uses scavenged and local materials and embraces print media as a potent means of action for social change.