Laura Swanson is an artist examining the behavior of looking at physical difference, working across media including photography, sculpture, installation, and drawing. Pulling from multiple sources - art history, commercial display, critical theory, personal experience, popular culture, sociology - her visual language is simultaneously playful and serious, simple and intricate, inviting and disruptive. Her practice centers around a critical examination of the visual depiction and objectification of different bodies in culture, the unexpected encounters with difference in everyday life, and the psychological effects of being socially marginalized.
Much of Swanson’s work explores the conventions of portraiture and the complications of representing and looking at different bodies. By theatrically concealing her identity through the use of domestic objects in Anti-Self-Portraits and iconic attire in Uniforms, her work invites looking at a body with dwarfism while simultaneously protecting the agency of the subject. As a response to the cultural dominance of the selfie and the ways it has transformed portraiture, Hope, NY questions the assumption of body norms in the bathroom mirror selfie by depicting the artist’s short-statured 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.
Swanson often references the visual spectacle of her short-statured body situated next to the six foot tall body of her husband to question the dominant cultural bias toward a sameness of things, especially adult bodies. Compelled to remove their bodies from objectification, she resists representation by anthropomorphizing ready-made objects in TOGETHER together, Display, and Street Clocks, to simultaneously create an image of solidarity and examine the desire to look at conspicuous physical differences. The safeguarding of agency and the desire 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 will present a solo exhibition of new and recent work at the Attenborough Arts Centre in the United Kingdom, be featured in and on the cover of Anti-Portraiture: Challenging the Limits of the Portrait to be published by I.B. Tauris, and participate in the Socrates Sculpture Park Emerging Artist Fellowship.
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
Recent Exhibition: Resistance documentation and exhibition essay
- 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