Swoon (artist)

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Swoon Caledonia Dance Curry.jpg
Swoon at the PopTech conference, 2014, Camden, Maine
Caledonia Dance Curry

1977 (age 42–43)
NationalityUnited States
EducationPratt Institute
Known forstreet art, graffiti art

Caledonia Curry (born 1977), whose work appears under the name Swoon, is a Brooklyn-based artist and is widely known as one of the first women to gain large-scale recognition in the male-dominated world of street art.[1] Caledonia took to the streets of New York while attending the Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn in 1999, pasting her paper portraits to the sides of buildings with the goal of making art and the public space of the city more accessible.[2]

Her work has become known for marrying the whimsical to the grounded, often weaving in slivers of fairy-tales, scraps of myth, and a recurring motif of the sacred feminine. Tendrils of her own family history—and a legacy of her parents’ struggles with addiction and substance abuse—recur throughout.[3]

While much of Swoon's art plays with the fantastical, there is also a strong element of realism. This can be seen in her myriad social endeavors, including a long-term community revitalization project in Braddock, Pennsylvania and her efforts to build earthquake-resistant homes in Haiti through Konbit Shelter. Her non-profit, the Heliotrope Foundation, was created in order to further support these ventures.[4]

Today, Swoon's work can be found on the sides of buildings worldwide and has been given both permanent and transient homes in more classical institutions, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Tate Modern, and the São Paulo Museum of Art. Most recently, she has begun using film animation to explore the boundaries of visual storytelling.[5]

Early life, education, and career[edit]

A work by Swoon in Djerbahood,[6] Tunisia

Callie Curry was born in New London, Connecticut, and raised in Daytona Beach, Florida. She moved to the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, New York when she was nineteen to study painting at the Pratt Institute.[7]

Then, Curry joined groups in New York City like Grub, which provides free Dumpster-dived dinners in Brooklyn. She also founded the Toyshop collective, known for organizing events such as a march through the Lower East Side consisting of 50 people playing instruments made out of junk.[7]


Street Pasting[edit]

A work by Swoon in Berlin

Swoon's most famous piece, Anthropocene Extinction, includes her signature human forms made from recycled newspaper. The process takes weeks to paint and cut out every figure in her studio. When finished, she transports the piece to the streets, where she glues the pieces onto buildings using wheatpaste.[8]

Swoon regularly creates 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, as well as other brownfield sites. Her work is inspired by both historical art 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 the Pratt Institute, studying painting. However, she began to feel restrained 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 stated that she wanted to become part of the world. Her response to this desire was what she believes to be a very literal one: gluing her art to walls. Wheat pasting became a way for her to discover and understand her impact in the world. Swoon describes that as a young woman she did not have a sense of her ability to make a change. By putting up a small wheat paste sticker, 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.[9]

The majority of Swoon's street art consists of 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.[10] One such connection, she says, has stuck with her throughout the years, as she mentions 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 affected 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.[9]

Living in New York City greatly affected Swoon as an artist. She loved its graffiti, layers, and others' feelings toward the graffiti and other aspects of the city. 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.[11]

Swimming Cities of Serenissima, 2009[edit]

Swimming Cities of Serenissima

Swoon 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,[7] as well as one raft made from material scrapped along the Slovenian 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 on the Slovenian coast on April 2009.[7] Slovenian officials at first held the containers, from New York, in customs, not believing they were full of trash.[7]

The rafts had eating, cooking, and sleeping quarters.[12] Once in the Venice Lagoon, the rafts' company performed throughout Venice nightly and docked at Certosa Island.[7][13] For example, they played on the Grand Canal at 3:00 a.m.[12] When the group ran out of money, they used the shipping containers as housing.[7]

Konbit Shelter[edit]

Burgundy Poland Union Swoon

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.


Curry works with a collective of artists based in Braddock, Pennsylvania, known as Transformazium which 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.

Heliotrope Foundation[edit]

In 2015, Curry founded a non-profit organization, The Heliotrope Foundation[14] to further her community-based projects in Haiti, New Orleans and North Braddock, Pennsylvania.

Name and image[edit]

Time Capsule (detail), Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art, Munich, Germany

Swoon did not begin to tag her art under that name until later into her career; she at first worked 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.[7] Thinking that it was pretty, Curry started tagging her art with the name.[10] 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.[15] 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.[16]

Over the years, Curry has started to see “Swoon” as an idea. It is a word that embodies her belief that creativity combined with dedication can create “cracks in the facades of impossibility and inevitability”.[9] She is known as a leader when working within collectives. As a keynote speaker at southern graphics conference in 2011 she said: "[w]here once there was noise, now there is a voice."[7]


Swoon started doing large-scale installations in 2005. That same year, the Museum of Modern Art started collecting her work and Jeffrey Deitch started to represent her there.[7]

In 2011, Swoon created a site-specific installation depicting the goddess Thalassa in the atrium of the New Orleans Museum of Art.[17] The piece is currently on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts through March 2017.

In December 2011, she held her first solo exhibition in London, England, filling the gallery at Black Rat Projects with sculptures and paper cut-outs.[18]

In 2014, she had an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, entitled Submerged Motherlands.[19]

In 2016 she was part of the exhibition "City lights" at the Mima museum in Brussel, Belgium[20]

List of Swoon's solo exhibitions:[21] [22] [23] [24]

Museum/Gallery Country Name of the exhibition Year
Art Basel Miami Beach, FL
76 Grand Street, New York, NY
SWOON - Deitch Projects
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY
Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY
New Image Art Gallery, West Hollywood, CA
Drown Your Boats
76 Grand Street, New York, NY
Swoon, Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea - Deitch Projects
Anonymous Gallery, New York, NY
Pankabestia: Punk Beasts of the Swimming Cities of Serenissima
Galerie L.J., Paris
Fata Morgana[25]
Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston, MA
Anthropocene Extinction
Metro Gallery, Melbourne
Black Rat Projects, London
 United Kingdom
SNOW Contemporary (XYZ Collective), Tokyo
Galerie L.J., Paris
Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY
Submerged Motherlands[19]
Chandran Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Witch-Wife (with Monica Canilao)
Library Street Collective, Detroit, MI
The Light After[29]
Allouche Gallery, New York, NY
To Accompany Something Invisible[30]
Skissernas Museum, Lund
2017 – 2018
Mori Museum, Tokyo, Japan Japan Catastrophe and the Power of Art[32] 2018
Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, New York, NY
Swoon: Cicada[33]
2019 – 2020

Media appearances[edit]

  • Swoon as herself, Inside Outside, 2005
  • Swoon as herself, Our City Dreams, Chiara Clemente, 2009
  • Swoon as herself, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy, 2010
  • Swoon as herself, TEDxBrooklyn - Callie Curry aka Swoon, TedTalk 2010 [34]
  • Swoon as herself, From Street Art to High Art - The New York Times, 2014 [35]
  • Swoon as herself, Swoon: From the Streets to the Galleries, 2016 [36]
  • Swoon as herself, Swoon - Artist, 2017 [37]



  1. ^ "Street Artist Swoon on Why Her Work Can Be Girly and Gritty". InStyle.com. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  2. ^ "Sending Out the Signal: Swoon Interviewed by Katie Peyton - BOMB Magazine". bombmagazine.org. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  3. ^ Curry, Caledonia (2019-04-08). "How one artist helped bring healing to herself and a community struggling with addiction". The Renewal Project. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  4. ^ "heliotrope foundation". heliotrope foundation. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  5. ^ "In a New Stop-Motion Film, Swoon Explores Trauma, Memory, and the Body". Colossal. 2020-03-25. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  6. ^ Ben Cheikh, Mehdi (2015). Djerbahood : le musée de street art à ciel ouvert. Albin Michel.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Vanessa Grigoriadis, "Barging In to Venice," New York magazine June 7, 2009.
  8. ^ "Swoon Biography – Swoon on artnet". www.artnet.com. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  9. ^ a b c TEDxBrooklyn- Callie Curry aka Swoon on YouTube
  10. ^ a b Walrus TV Artist Feature: Swoon Interview from ‘The Run Up’ on YouTube
  11. ^ "Street Art | Off Book | PBS". YouTube. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  12. ^ a b Porter Fox, "Explorer: An Artists’ Armada to Venice on Ancient Waterways,", New York Times Travel, August 23, 2009.
  13. ^ Jacquelyn Lewis, "Swoon's 'Swimming Cities' Crashes the Venice Biennale" Art in America June 3, 2009.
  14. ^ Heliotrope Foundation
  15. ^ Ganz, Nicholas (2006). Graffiti Women: Street Art from Five Continents. Abrams.
  16. ^ Gentry, Erin (2008). Girls' Night Out: Female Artists in a Gendered City.
  17. ^ "SWOON: THALASSA - The Great Hall Project". Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  18. ^ "Swoon: Murmuration". BlackRatProjects. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  19. ^ a b "Swoon: Submerged Motherlands". Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  20. ^ "City Lights - Mimamuseum". Mima Museum. 2016-02-22. Retrieved 2017-07-21.
  21. ^ "About SWOON". swoonstudio.org. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  22. ^ "Swoon 1978, US". ArtFacts.net. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  23. ^ "Swoon Exhibitions". WildeWalls.ch. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  24. ^ "SHOWS". galerilj.com. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  25. ^ "Swoon : Fata Morgana @ Gallerie L.J. ( Paris )". dailymotion.com. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  26. ^ "Openings: Swoon – "Thekla" @ Metro Gallery". arrestedmotion. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  27. ^ "Swoon @ Black Rat Projects - London - december 2011". YouTube. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  28. ^ "SWOON "Honeycomb"". snowcontemporary.com. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  29. ^ "Artist Simulates What It's Like To Have A Shared-Death Experience". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  30. ^ "Swoon: Haven". skissernasmuseum.se. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  31. ^ "Mori Museum".
  32. ^ "Jeffrey Deitch - Exhibitions". Jeffrey Deitch. 14 November 2019. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  33. ^ "TedxBrooklin - Callie Curry aka Swoon". YouTube. Tedx Talks.
  34. ^ "From Street Art to High Art". YouTube. The New York Times.
  35. ^ "Swoon: From the Streets to the Galleries". YouTube. The Laura Flanders Show.
  36. ^ "Swoon - Artist". YouTube. Bedrock Detroit.


Further reading

External links[edit]