A woman casually glances over her shoulder as her v-neck t-shirt hugs her torso ever so slightly. Symbols of the sun, flowers, and a curling snake-like form fill the space where her legs would be. The she in question is the subject of a delicate drawing wheatpasted to a New York City brick wall. It has been painted over so many times that the rectangular shapes are hardly visible. The paper silhouette that forms her body is peeling, cracking, ripping apart. But her beauty stands as her decomposing transformation begins and the wall starts to reclaim its face. This is a life cycle of artwork made by Swoon.
Swoon started her street art career in 1999 when she moved to New York to study painting at the Pratt Institute. She soon realized that she did not want her work to only be seen in galleries or homes by a select few. She wanted to change her everyday landscape and have anyone be able to see her work. Swoon started gluing and wheatpasting her work around the city–from public walls to condemned and abandoned properties–shifting perception of what street art could be.
Unlike the bubble lettered graffiti or politically charged posters so common in street art, Swoon’s pieces often err on the side of tender. And though elegant and sophisticated, the work still maintains an element of grit. Over the years she has converted her work to be shown in art galleries, art fairs, and even in museums, as she did in the summer of 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum. But the rebel in her is still working to alter exterior landscapes.
In 2010, Swoon discovered Braddock, PA. The town lost 80 percent of its population due to the collapse of its large scale steel industry, but galleries, new businesses, and artists–including Swoon–have begun to reinvigorate the community. Currently, Swoon has started a project to transform an abandoned church into a community-based artisanal micro-factory in North Braddock. The first venture of this factory will be to hand-produce 20,000 delightfully colored ceramic tiles that will provide the landmark structure with a new roof. While the factory will continue to generate beautiful architectural tiles once the restoration of the building is complete, it will also be an arts-focused learning and resource center. To raise the funds for this project, Swoon is not only selling prints of her own work but also prints by some of the most fantastic street and fine artists at extremely reasonable prices.
To try and predict Swoon’s next career move is an impossible task. Like her fragile works of art that arouse curiosity and give joy to those who are fortunate to find it, her generous soul (a rare trait in the art world) is sure to be evident in what ever she chooses to do.
Read more about Braddock Tiles Project.