Laura Swanson is an artist examining the behavior of looking at physical difference and how identity is constructed, perceived, and performed. Working across various media and pulling inspiration from multiple sources - art history, commercial photography, critical theory, film and tv tropes, personal experience, retail display, social media - her visual language is simultaneously playful and serious; simple and intricate; inviting and disruptive.
Much of Swanson’s work playfully subverts the expectations of portraiture to explore the complications of representing and looking at different bodies and to reveal the performative nature of identity. By theatrically concealing her identity through the use of domestic objects in Anti-Self-Portraits and iconic garments in Uniforms, her work invites the viewer to look at a short statured body while protecting the agency of the subject. As a lighthearted critique of the cultural dominance of the selfie, Hope, NY questions the assumption of body norms in the bathroom mirror selfie by placing the artist's body in bathrooms designed for the average-sized adult body. In Beauty, portraits of the artist's friends wearing ready-made face masks, she elevates and prolongs the ephemerality of the selfie by using the visual language of Baroque portraiture to examine the ease of borrowing, concealing, and performing identity in a social media-obsessed culture. Posing as artists known both for their cultural influence and their intense desire for privacy, Recluse illustrates Swanson's frustration with the expectation for artists to be public figures and her desire to be in a position where, like the figures depicted, she can maintain a practice without cultivating a public presence.
Swanson often references the visual spectacle of her short statured body situated next to the tall statured body of her husband to question the dominant cultural bias toward a sameness of things, especially the size of adult bodies. Compelled to remove their bodies from objectification, she pairs ready-made objects with corresponding statures in TOGETHER together, Display, and Street Clocks, to embody a portrait of a relationship and examine the impulse to scrutinize conspicuous height differences. The safeguarding of agency and the appeal for privacy is embodied through her fantastical dwelling spaces, Homemade Bull and Chibi House, which provide refuge to read critical theory in pursuit of intellectual liberation.
Born in Minneapolis, Swanson received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011 and BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2008. Her first solo exhibition was presented at the Laurie M. Tisch Gallery in New York in 2016. Her work has also been exhibited at the RISD Museum of Art, Camera Club of New York, and San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, and internationally at Arsenal in Berlin, Germany, Media Art Gallery in Warsaw, Poland, and in South Korea at the Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art.
In 2017, Swanson presented her second solo exhibition at the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester, United Kingdom and debuted her first public art work at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York. Her work will be featured in and on the cover of Anti-Portraiture: Challenging the Limits of the Portrait to be published by I.B. Tauris in 2018.
Swanson was a National Endowment for the Arts John Renna Scholar in 2008-2010, Jacob K. Javits Fellow in 2010-2011, and received a Wynn Newhouse Award from the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation in 2013. Her work is held in collection at the Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art in Jeju, South Korea. She lives and works in New York.
Download: Curriculum vitae
- April 2017 interview with Dave Hopper for The Creative Process podcast by WAMC Northeast Public Radio
- January 2015 interview with Amanda Cachia about Uniforms
- October 2014 interview with Rachel Ishikawa for the Center for Art + Thought
- September 2013 interview with Kristin Lindgren for the Mellon Creative Residencies