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‘Swoon: Submgered Motherlands’

A Swoon song: Famed street artist builds giant tree inside Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Daily
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Swoon has sailed in to the Brooklyn Museum.

A major new exhibition from Brooklyn artist Swoon has transformed the rotunda of the Brooklyn Museum into a fanciful landscape with a giant aluminum tree, boats made from salvaged refuse, and a gazebo that acts like a kind of temple. The artist said she wanted to go big for her borough.

“This place is my home,” said Swoon, whose real name is Caledonia Curry. “I poured all of my own energy and resources into this. And I think we were really able to pull something together here, we haven’t been able to anywhere else.”

The centerpiece of “Swoon: Submerged Motherlands,” which opened on April 11 and runs through August 24, is an enormous aluminum tree sculpture, strewn with hand-dyed fabric and cut paper. The whimsical arbor nearly reaches the top of the domed ceiling, and weighs so much installers had some trouble hoisting it up. But the curator said it was worth the work.

“The tree really fills the space,” said Sharon Matt Atkins, managing curator at the Brooklyn Museum. “It uses the height of the rotunda in a way I’ve never seen.”

Another big part of the show are the boats Swoon designed for a previous project, “The Swimming Cities of Serenissima.” Made from salvaged materials, Swoon and a crew sailed the hodgepodge vessels into Venice during the 2009 Biennale — stopping to perform music and puppetry acts for onlookers on land. The new show gives people a closer look at the unwieldy ships.

“When we pulled them out of the water, they were such monstrosit­ies,” Swoon said. “I thought it would be good if people could spend some time with them. And be close to them.”

The boats, like much of Swoon’s work, are a commentary on climate change issues. And the exhibition’s name conjures the loss of homelands that can be caused by environmental devastation.

“I was looking at the vulnerability of motherlands,” she said. “And looking at cultures that were destroyed because of their land being lost.”

Swoon, who studied at the Pratt Institute and has lived in Brooklyn since the late 1990s, keeps her street-art roots close at hand — even inside the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition includes a number of the intricate wheat-pasting prints for which she first became known.

The artist said she enjoys working on both types of platforms.

“A museum is a protected environment in which you get to create your own world,” she said. “Outside, I get to make these fleeting interventions. For me, these are both spokes on a wheel.”

“Swoon: Submerged Motherlands” at the Brooklyn Museum [200 Eastern Parkway, between Washington and Flatbush avenues in Prospect Heights, (718) 638–5000,]. April 11–August 24. Free.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
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