Q&A with SWOON
I know you were born in Connecticut but raised in Daytona Beach, did you draw inspiration early on from your experiences in Daytona?
DEFINITELY. I used to really discredit the importance of growing up in Florida until I bet my friend a million dollars that Bob Ross couldn’t possibly have been from Daytona Beach, and lost. I still owe him that million dollars -- but anyway. For some reason that moment put my early Bob Ross style painting classes which I started at the age of 10 into perspective. I always knew that they were the thing that made me know for sure that I was an artist, but I never realized how specific to Florida and to Daytona Beach that experience was. After those classes I started working, at the age of 12, with a painting teacher named Greg Grant who still teaches classes in the area. He was the person who taught me how to see. He taught me the ways that art is about looking, and taught me how to paint portraits, which is still at the core of my practice.
On top of all this, we had great art classes when I went to school. In my high school (I went to Spruce Creek and then to Atlantic), we had photography, ceramics, painting, sculpture - it was really a great arts program for a public school system, and it really helped me a lot when I got to college to already have so much experience in various mediums under my belt.
Also, I am obsessed with the ocean for life. I’ve done so many projects around water, from building rafts that travelled on rivers and seas, to creating portraits of Thalassa, a primordial incarnation of the sea from Greek mythology. All of this comes from being a beach baby when I was a kid, and how that never really leaves you.
I gotta ask this, and I’m sure you get it all the time, but how did you arrive at the moniker SWOON?
Well, I always believed that you can’t choose your name, it has to choose you - so when I was looking for a nom de plume under which to make some illegal marks, I remembered a dream my boyfriend and very dear friend had had a couple years back where I was a graffiti writer and I wrote Swoon. Lots of good things come to me in dreams, even sometimes in other people’s dreams.
Community outreach and social awareness are important to you, and I consider that very admirable. Is art the conduit that bridges that gap from visual conception to a cognitive one for the viewer in respect to your work? And do you believe that should be a key role that an artist should play?
I would never want to be prescriptive about what other artists should be doing. Some folks make art that seems perverse or decadent from the outside, but that has a deep social value, and so I think it’s really up to each artist to choose their path. Me, I make socially engaged art because I can’t stand the pressure I feel when I comprehend enormity of suffering in the world. Deciding on the small space within which I can take action, and then taking that action is one of the ways that I stay sane.
Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
I love the Just Seeds Art Collective, Mickalene Thomas, Corinne Loperfido, Coby Kennedy, Rowen Renee, The Taring Padi Art collective, so many, too many to name.
Do you have a favorite medium? You incorporate many types into your work, but like for example, I was made aware of you through your printmaking and wheat pasting during my time in fine arts school.
I definitely love block printing and wheat pasting, but I’m actually on a hiatus from both of them right now, because I found I had to make a little space in my life to try new things. So, right now, my favorite medium is stop-motion animation!
You’ve been busy with travelling and gallery exhibits all over the world. Ever make it back to the Daytona area? It’s unrecognizable.
Oh yeah, I come back at least once a year. My family stayed in the area, and I have kept close with many of my oldest friends from Daytona, so it’s a place that will always be important to me. I used to stay for the whole summer sometimes, and a lot of my block prints and paper cuts were created or at least started there.
Any advice for the downtrodden, disillusioned, Daytonian local artists before we close?
A friend recently said to me that he wished we put more value on the art that we make for each other. He said we all focus on whether or not we make it on some huge cultural scene, and whether or not we make some big contribution to art history, but we underestimate the fact that making art within our communities, wherever they are, is something that’s absolutely important and essential for ourselves and for the people around us. I thought this was a great observation and so true. Making people happy and making life more beautiful and more creative is important. It doesn’t matter if you’re making 2 people happy or 2,000 people happy, your creative expressions matter.
Interview by Tommy Guilmette, special thanks to SWOON and Emma Wiseman.
All images are copyrighted and the property of the Artist.