Recluse

Date: 2017
Medium: Inkjet prints
Dimensions: 18 x 24 inches

"Recluse features seven beautifully crafted self-portraits in which Swanson poses as artists known both for their cultural influence and their intense desire for privacy. This series marks a new direction in her work as well as a fresh entry point to her persistent themes of concealing, protecting, and transforming identities presumed to be stable and transparent. She observes: “Today, the public desire for unfettered access to the lives of anyone in a public-facing career further stigmatizes the role of the recluse. Artists are expected to be brand managers or spokespersons for their own work, which can result in being defined by perceived identities (construed by biographical or physical characteristics) rather than by the work they make.”  Recluse reflects her personal frustration with these expectations and her desire to be in a position where, like these seven figures, she can make art without cultivating a public presence. In these images, she reclaims the figure of the recluse and embraces it as signifying liberation from social and cultural expectations. The pictures are at once self-portraits in the guise of celebrated artists and riffs on well-known portraits of these artists, including the widely circulated daguerreotype of a young Emily Dickinson, an iconic Stieglitz photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe, and a photograph of Stanley Kubrick on the set of A Clockwork Orange. Drawing on these earlier images, Swanson gestures toward the history of photographic portraiture even as she reimagines the photographs for her own purposes. Adding digitally painted makeup, hair, and clothing to photographs of herself, she borrows the identities of these artists and they borrow hers. The result is a surprising visual remix of features and clothing that crosses perceived boundaries of gender, age, race, and era and represents celebrated public identity as a burden, a mask, and a performance."

Excerpt from "Drama Queen" by Kristin Lindgren, an essay commissioned for Laura Swanson's 2017 solo exhibition at the Attenborough Arts Centre.