exhibition: then & now–

I Love You Mom Dad, drawn around 1990 (?)
Carly I Love You Mom Dad, 1990 (?)

Last July, I was invited to participate in the Then & Now October group exhibition at the Translations Art Gallery in Canton, Ohio.

“The concept of Then & Now is to choose a piece of your own childhood artwork (pre-college) and recreate it in your current style. Your interpretation may be as literal, or not, as you wish, but keep in mind maintaining a clear connection between both pieces (in theme, subject matter, imagery, etc.)”
Heather Bullach, Translations Art Gallery


My original work was created on the back of a bank statement from 1988.  By the best estimates of my parent and me, I was about six years old. I love the concept of this Then & Now exhibition. The idea of taking childhood artwork and recreating it in your adult artistic style had never occurred to me.  I looked forward to the delightful challenge.

I did find that my options rather limited when it came to choosing my reference work from childhood. I certainly don’t blame my parents for not keeping every random, artistic ‘masterpiece’ I created from the ages of three to fourteen, because to be completely honest–there must have been just an absurd amount. I’ve been scribbling on scrap paper, drawing on colored construction paper, and creating fantastic gluey messes for as far back as I remember.

Somehow this work found its way into my father’s office where it remained until his retirement this past spring.  Our investigative efforts concluded that this is the earliest work of my childhood creations still in existence. As far as subject matter and composition, this work leaves a fair amount to be desired.  However, I can hardly blame the six-year-old me for not taking subject matter, color scheme, compositional layout, and background design into account. Besides, given my life-long lack of adequate spelling capabilities, I am a little impressed I spelled everything correctly.

For my recreation piece, I wanted to keep several of the original key elements while creating a new work containing more texture, visual depth, engaging imagery, and a more cohesive color scheme. I kept the circular outline, the horizontal and vertical lines of the basket form, as well as the flowers and text.

At first, I wasn’t content with how the piece was developing.  It still felt rather juvenile and boring.  However, once I started adding my own sketches, the beaded lines and the drawn India ink embellishments, the work evolved into something I was proud of; a work I was happy to represent my growth as an artist. The finished pieced maintains an obvious resemblance to the original childhood work, while incorporating the mixed media style I have developed as an adult.

I Love You, Mom & Dad, 12in x 12in mixed media collage on canvas, 2012
I Love You, Mom & Dad, • 12in x 12in • Mixed media collage • Carly Swenson • 2012


Detail image 2, 2012
Detail image 2 • Carly Swenson • 2012

Oh, and I do still totally love you, mom and dad.

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