|Born||Caledonia Dance Curry
New London, Connecticut
Swoon (born 1978 in New London, Connecticut), whose real name is Caledonia Dance Curry, is a street artist who specializes in life-size wheatpaste prints and paper cutouts of human figures. She studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and started doing street art around 1999 and large-scale installations in 2005.
Early life and education
She joined groups in New York City like Grub, that provides free Dumpster-dived dinners in Brooklyn. She also founded the Toyshop collective known for their happenings like a march through the Lower East Side of 50 people playing instruments made out of junk.
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.
Swoon started her street art in 1999. At the time she was attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and studying painting. However she began to feel suffocated by the sense that her life was already laid out for her. She believed that she would simply paint a few pictures that would end up on a wall in a gallery or someone’s home. 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.
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. One such connection has stuck with her throughout the years, mentioning it in multiple interviews. She met a woman who asked her about a small piece of art that she had put up in a neighborhood. The woman proceeded to tell her that a mentally disabled man who lived in the neighborhood had started to call it “The Secret” and he would take people to it and show them. The little piece had become a special thing in the community. This moment has had an impact on Swoon, telling her that one tiny thing can make an opportunity for connection and can inspire the feeling that maybe there is another world existing around us and that we only need a perception shift in order to see it. She has since tried to evoke this in all of her other artwork. Originally she believed her series of portraits would be a two-month project but she has continued to make them for over ten years.
Living in New York City had a great impact on her as an artist. She loved its landscape with the graffiti and the layers and the overall impute of people. She wanted to interact with the layers of the city, what she describes as “the naturally occurring collage of the city”. Her first series of prints were done on tracing paper so that the colors of the walls and the chipping paint could still be seen. Her prints tried to create life in what would be an otherwise dead space.
Swimming Cities of Serenissima, 2009
She and a crew of 30 crashed the 2009 Venice Biennale with the Swimming Cities of Serenissima, a performance project similar to the Miss Rockaway Armada and the Swimming Cities of the Switchback Sea. The crew sailed from Slovenia in rafts made of containers-worth of New York City garbage, as well as one raft made from material scrapped along the Slovinian coast. The project stopped at various points on the way to meet locals, collect artifacts for their on-board "cabinet of curiosities" and to prepare for the culminating performance entitled, The Clutchess of Cuckoo.
The crew included members from the anarchist bicycle-art group Black Label Bike Club, Chicken John, artists Iris Lasson and Arielle Bier, other artists, activists, and musicians. They gathered at on the Slovenian coast on April 2009. Slovenian officials held the containers from New York in customs at first not believing they were full of trash.
The rafts had eating, cooking and sleeping quarters. And once in the Venice Lagoon, the rafts and their company performed throughout Venice nightly and docked at Certosa Island. They "barnstormed"[clarification needed] the Grand Canal at 3:00 a.m. When the group ran out of money, they housed themselves in the shipping containers.
Konbit Shelter, 2013
Konbit Shelter is a sustainable building project begun in 2010 with the objective of sharing knowledge and resources through the creation of homes and community spaces in post-earthquake Haiti. A group of artists, builders, architects and engineers are working to build permanent, creatively designed structures utilizing the techniques of Super Adobe earth bag construction and dome architecture. The buildings use inexpensive and locally-available materials and are meant to be resistant to earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and fires. The technique uses little to no wood, an invaluable asset in timber-depleted Haiti.
As of December 2010, a community center and a house had been completed.
Based in Braddock, Pennsylvania, the collective of artists and activists known as Transformazium provides classes and opportunities for hands-on learning. Their focus is on creative re-use and re-imagining of Braddock’s derelict urban spaces and resources. The goal is to turn an abandoned 1880s United Brethren Church and its adjacent lot into an experiential learning and arts-based community center.
Name and image
Caledonia did not begin to tag her art with the name, Swoon, until later into her career. When she started to work, she did it anonymously. It was not until her then-boyfriend had a dream about the two of them doing graffiti and running from the police that she got the name Swoon. In his dream, she was writing Swoon on the walls of buildings. Thinking that it was pretty, Curry started tagging her art with the name. After a few years, she began to gain recognition as Swoon. She found it funny that everyone expected her to be a man. They wanted that “Swoon-guy” to come and do shows in their neighborhoods. This also serves to highlight the disproportionate ratio of men to women in graffiti art. It is often seen as too dangerous and aggressive for women. Swoon was able to find success in an art form usually unwelcoming to others of her sex. However Swoon does acknowledge that her gender provides invisibility from the police while pasting that her male counterparts do not have. Over the years Curry has started to see “Swoon” as an idea. It is a word embodies her belief that creativity combined with dedication can create “cracks in the facades of impossibility and inevitability”.
She has red hair and is known as a leader when working within collectives.
She started doing large-scale installations in 2005. That same year, MoMA started collecting her work and Jeffrey Deitch started to represent her. On the West Coast, she is represented by New Image Art gallery.
- Swoon as herself, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy, 2010
- Swoon as herself, Our City Dreams, Chiara Clemente, 2009
- Swoon as herself, Inside Outside, 2005[clarification needed]
- Vanessa Grigoriadis, "Barging In to Venice," New York magazine June 7, 2009.
- "TEDxBrooklyn- Callie Curry aka Swoon". YouTube.
- "Walrus TV Artist Feature: Swoon Interview from ‘The Run Up’". YouTube.
- "Street Art | Off Book| PBS". YouTube. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
- Porter Fox, "Explorer: An Artists’ Armada to Venice on Ancient Waterways,", New York Times Travel, August 23, 2009.
- Jacquelyn Lewis, "Swoon's 'Swimming Cities' Crashes the Venice Biennale" Art in America June 3, 2009.
- Ganz, Nicholas (2006). Graffiti Women: Street Art from Five Continents. Abrams.
- Gentry, Erin (2008). Girls' Night Out: Female Artists in a Gendered City.
- "SWOON: THALASSA - The Great Hall Project". Retrieved 2013-04-16.
- Swoon “Murmuration” At Black Rat Projects, Living Proof Magazine, November 23, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-26.
- ' 'Swoon "Submerged Motherlands". Retrieved 2014-04-27.
- Aug. 18, 2008 NY Times article
- July 9, 2004 NY Times article
- Interview with The Morning News
- Sadie Magazine interview
- Gammablog interview
- KultureFlash interview
- Rising Artist in Curbs and Stoops
- October 10, 2008 "Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea", Scribe Media video
- November 2008, "A Two Way Street", ARTNEWS
- Interview with The Huffington Post
- interview with Swoon about the Portrait of Silvia Elena at Honey Space, New York
- Article and Interview in Time Out London, November 25, 2011
- Deitch, Jeffrey (2011). Art in the Streets. Skira Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0-8478-3648-2.
- Swoon (Graffiti artist) (2010). Swoon. Harry N Abrams Incorporated. ISBN 0-8109-8485-7.
- Ganz, Nicholas (2004). Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents. ISBN 978-0-500-51170-1.
- Manco, Tristan (2004). Street Logos. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-28469-8.
- "re:vision", Chris Pieretti, 606, 2006, ISBN 1-59975-832-6
- Deitch Projects
- Just Seeds
- Konbit Shelter
- Swoon at Internet Movie Database