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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Work of Marc Swanson



Rhinestone encrusted trophy-heads, laminated t-shirt panels; taxideremied peacocks and woolen yetis are all reoccurring themes throughout the work of Marc Swanson. The New York based sculptor and installation artist has garnered a reputation for his deeply personal and highly aesthetic works which deal with issues of identity, masculinity, mysticism and death. His latest pair of shows at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum in Ithaca and the Bellwether Gallery in New York, further his investigation into the divisive nature of man and the cruel irony of nature with an ensemble of new works and a well-picked selection of old ones.

Despite Swanson’s startling resolve and methodical approach to art making, his road to becoming an artist has not been a typical one. An art school dropout turned commercial sculptor, Swanson made a living designing trade-show displays and commercial plaster in San Francisco. As his skills developed and his confidence increased, he began to experiment with works of his own; consisting largely of small dioramas and installations, which challenged models of masculinity in the age of indentity politics.

With virtually no formal training, Swanson began showing in San Francisco and soon in New York before earning a residency in Switzerland. It wasn’t until 2000 that he enrolled in the prestigious nine-week residency offered by the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and subsequently Bard College for his MFA.

As his work has progressed, it has become increasingly personal and much of the works in the Johnson Museum and the Bellwether Gallery shows make reference to his childhood; growing up the gay son of a devoted trophy hunter in rural New Hampshire and moving to San Francisco to pursue art. Embellished deer recall hunting with his father, while mystic symbols made of the artists t-shirts and underwear ask grander questions about the state of man, all the while a peacock perched above appears as both a phoenix and a vulture, a constant reminder of death and reinvention.
The majesty of Marc Swanson’s work exists in his ability to capture a dual narrative. At once highly personal and self-referential, Swanson’s work illuminates greater truths about life in the modern era.

The Saint at Large, Bellwether Gallery, New York, NY
Hurry on Sundown, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

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