I’m delighted to have a page-long article focusing on my artwork in Lajes Field’s quarterly base magazine, Accents. My piece, Terceira July, was also used as the cover image for this issue. The article was an edited version of an interview, Trishell Bates, wrote for her blog–with a different title. Her original title, Carly Swenson is the New Black was pretty great. I’m very grateful for her kind words about my work, as well as thankful to the marketing director for publishing her article and supporting my work as an American artist working to establish a vocation for myself despite being a military spouse.
Carly Swenson is the New Black
April ended with a series of wonderfully fun events here on the island, but the one that everyone back in the states should be most jealous about was this incredible art exhibition that opened on the 26th at Academia de Juventude a das Artes de Ilha Terceira in Praia da Vitória, featuring Swenson’s Ancient Gods and Contemporary Circumstances. The collection will be available for viewing until May 26th.
Carly specializes in mixed-media art and, if you haven’t heard of it, you are missing out in a big way. This woman combines her own sketches with a wide variety of found objects including pages from books and magazines, local seashells, feathers, and any other item that you might feel compelled to touch. And you can! Carly actually encourages everyone to lightly touch and feel her pieces, though you’ll want to be particularly careful caressing Demeter: Goddess of Agriculture, which features real syringes.
But, this isn’t Carly’s first exhibition. This isn’t even her first on the island of Terceira. So, if any of my Lajes readers are interested in seeing more of Carly’s work, you guys should make your way down to the Dacosta Gallery at the Museum of Angra do Heroismo before June 9th to see Swenson’s Seven Social Sins, composed of 21 incredibly thought-provoking pieces. You can also view some of her other pieces on base at the AFRC or Atlantic Island Kennels.
Carly began making a career of her art only four short years ago, after a leaving a particularly taxing graphic design job, but remembers having an interest in art at a young age.
“As long as I can remember I’ve been into art. Even in kindergarten, I remember, I was always drawing; creating.”
In high school, Swenson took advanced placement art classes, but found working mostly with watercolors to be a bit boring. On the road to fulfilling her BFA in Visual Arts with a 2D emphasis and Minor in Art History at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, Carly had the opportunity to try her hand with other artistic mediums and found choosing just one to be nearly impossible. Thus began her love for mixed media collage.
“I loved the texture, and the found objects, and the juxtaposition of imagery,” she said.
In 2005, Carly applied and was selected to join only a small handful of other students to display her senior project in a prestigious university gallery.
“That was my first juried solo exhibition and that was also my senior show,” she said. “And that was when I was first getting into mixed media to begin with.”
After graduating college, Swenson married this pretty witty fella’. Before long, his career with the Air Force whisked them away to England, where Carly worked the aforementioned graphic design job, made an attempt at freelance graphic design, and finally found her place as a professional artist after asking herself, “if other normal humans can make a living – just a normal living – artistically, why can’t I?”
Carly has found the tools of her craft, not just in art supply stores, but also in thrift stores, children’s books, markets in England, and antique shops. Occasionally, she finds the rare object in common street litter, or as a gift from a thoughtful friend or her husband.
While the bodies of work on display in Praia and Angra may have begun as concept sketches, with a vision of her end result in mind, Swenson says that most of her art comes together much more organically.
“A lot of it is really intuitive. Things happen in the world and it hits me in a way that it shouldn’t, because I can’t do something about, like, a factory explosion [for example],” Carly said. “It just kind of wells up and I just have to get something out. I’m trying to just make sense of the world in my head, or help other people see my perspective on things.”
And, while not all of Swenson’s work is created as statement about society, it efficiently does exactly what one would hope quality art should do: it inspires thoughtful discussion among her audience.
“I definitely want all of my work to provoke something in people. I want it to be a little bit more than just being pretty,” she said. “I want people to have some sort of connection to the imagery.”
So, are my stateside friends jealous, yet? Well, those of you who can make the trip to the Paris Gibson Art Center in Great Falls, Montana on July 23rd will have the opportunity to view the island through Carly’s eyes, or more specifically, through the viewfinder of her camera. Twenty-four photographs featuring the abandoned buildings of Terceira will be available for viewing until the middle of December.
“I think they’re really fascinating. Some of those [buildings] were in existence before my state was even a state, which is kind of mind-blowing to me,” Carly said. “All these spaces have stories. You can see the presence of human beings there.”
And while Carly doesn’t consider herself a photographer, per se, she seems to really have an eye for the beautifully small details found amongst the rubble. This collection is truly beautiful and haunting. Montana, I’m honestly jealous that this will be on display for you and not for us island-dwellers.
If any of my readers out there are looking for more information about Carly Swenson’s art (and I know you all are), here are some sites you really must check out.
And if you want a piece that is more specifically “you,” Carly is always willing to create a commissioned piece using your favorite quotes, life experiences, or other personal interests. For details on this, to ask the artist herself questions about her art, or to view specific pieces in person, contact Carly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, before I leave you to stalk her website and absolutely fall in love with her work, I want to lay down one more quote for the closeted artists who might be reading this, by Carly Swenson herself:
“I think everybody has something creative in them and they want to be creative. Just play! You can like playing around on the guitar, but that doesn’t mean you have to pursue being a musician, it just means it fulfills something in you. And I think a lot of people have that with art, but then they’re too nervous to own to it because they’re just afraid of criticism. And really, you know, there’s no wrong art. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it.”