Swoon Take Over at the Brooklyn Museum!

by Oriana Asano

From April 11 to August 24, the Brooklyn Museum will be featuring graffiti portraitist Swoon’s installation Submerged Motherlands, a poignant work that focuses on climate change, and the disastrous effects of Hurricane Sandy and the Doggerland–a landmass that once connected Great Britain to Europe’s mainland before it was submerged by a tsunami. Swoon transformed the Brooklyn Museum’s Rotunda Gallery into a magnificent landscape with makeshift boats, rafts, and paper foliage to adorn an enormous tree, which is the focal point of the exhibit.

Swoon is known for her social and political art projects such as her Swimming Cities of Serenissima (2009), in which she and 30 other activists/artists crashed the Venice Biennale by sailing into the Slovenian Coast in rafts made of NYC garbage, making a statement about our society’s economic and ecological collapse. Some of the rafts used in Swimming Cities of Serenissima will also be displayed in Submerged Motherlands.

Swoon is also a master graffiti artist; she has been involved in the medium for a full decade, which was a path she never predicted. Swoon began creating graffiti art for a project she only expected to last two months. In her unique form of street art, Swoon uses wheat paste to attach portraits of friends and families to urban landscapes around the world. Instead of selling her art to galleries or having it displayed inside private homes, Swoon aims to make a mark on the world through intentionally changing the public landscape.

Swoon’s portraits are profoundly intimate, as they reveal the love she feels for each subject. These aren’t typical Neoclassical stolid portraits, but rather a way for her to connect with her subjects, and to allow passersby to see them as she does. She considers her portraits as adding to “the naturally occurring collage of the city.” Swoon relies on her art as a reflection of her thoughts and needs; an anchor of sanity that she feels has always given back to her. She devotes much time to her art, as it allows her to create her own world, which is a deeply empowering relationship.

As much as being an artist allows Swoon to claim her independent voice and creative space, being a woman in a male-dominated field has its frustrations. People often mistake her for a man, simply because her pseudonym does not specify gender, and men make up the majority of the street art community. Despite this, Swoon continues to bring art to cities around the world – as she should!


The exhibition will be in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery of the Brooklyn Museum, located at 200 Eastern Parkway and can be visited with a general admission ticket. Contribute to the buzz of the exhibition with the hashtag #swoonstreetart. 

Pictures courtesy of ArrestedMotion, the Brooklyn Museum and BrooklynStreetArt

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