MARC SWANSON At First Sight

BELLWETHER GALLERY | 2001

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A harsh terrain of primordial forces—a far-off land of fantastic trophies and paralyzing loss, a place where love alchemically becomes living memory—is where Marc Swanson explores our universal precepts. Through iconic fabrication, he keeps an alternative universe alive by integrating it with his own sense of self-preservation. The show’s title,  At First Sight,  defines the tone of absence, by leaving out the main idea—the word “Love.” Sometimes what’s not there is more powerful than what is.

On the gallery windows, “Dreamcatcher Curtains” enshrined the space, declaring “no dreams allowed in or out.” In the first room, an elegant rhinestone-encrusted deer head glittered like a disco ball. In this piece, as throughout, Swanson has refined and juxtaposed two central elements of his life. His upbringing as the son of an ex-Marine hunter supplies much of the survivalist and primitive aspects that come across so powerfully. The other dominant strain is the “fabulous” aspect of gay culture. The unifying flag is quoted in Community. A dead rabbit (symbolizing lost love) is laid out on top of a rind of seemingly supportive rainbow colored feathers. Pallbearers, they hold up their fallen comrade. A hierarchical, counter-impulse is also formed by the feathers which read, at least in part, as a headdress—with no one to wear it—a crown with no subject.

In the next room, Swanson provided a subject—a white fur-covered stooping creature, a primitive Yeti, or Sasquatch—carrying some rabbits he’s snared. Using castings of his own face and hands, this self-portrait as the Abominable Snowman propels the artist into a subconscious realm of possibility where time itself seems frozen. Under a blue light, “Killing Moon” could almost be at the Natural History Museum, lending the campy atmosphere an uncanny authority. Antlers, festooned in dazzling ruby crystals, litter the ground—relics, last season’s romantic embers still glowing. Like a department store window in the uninhabited Arctic, this chilling vision is attractive and remote, a ghostly manikin for us to drape our dreams upon.

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