Mine de rien, ça lui plaît de tromper son petit monde avec ses animaux venus du fond des âges à moins que, au contraire, ils aient déjà muté et appartiennent à notre futur. Ça lui plaît aussi de présenter des bronzes qui ont un aspect de bois flotté à moins que ce ne soit l’inverse. Le visiteur s’y perd et lui s’amuse.
Quentin Garel travaille sur le monde animal depuis vingt ans déjà. Vingt ans qu’il a ouvert son regard sur la beauté animale et sur sa diversité. Et pourtant il n’est ni sculpteur animalier ni militant de la cause animale. Il est dans un autre registre, il témoigne, il interroge, il met en scène pour mieux interpeller… et observe les réactions du public de son œil malicieux. Cela se passe à Saint-Pierre-de-Varengeville en Seine-Maritime.
A partir d’une approche « scientifique » tel un archéologue, il étudie la morphologie des animaux, leurs ossements en se documentant notamment dans les musées d’archéologie ou d’histoire naturelle. Le rendu final est réaliste, les proportions sont respectées et le visiteur arrive à les associer aux animaux. Sauf que, à la manière d’une anamorphose, ils sont légèrement déformés, un brun monstrueux et n’ont jamais vraiment existé. L’artiste va accentuer un détail de l’animal pour le rendre extra-ordinaire. Il va même jusqu’à leur donner des noms à résonance latine pour aller au bout de l’illusion d’une supposée découverte archéologique : « Vertebrata » « Gigantodobemus ».
En même temps qu’il donne à voir ces crânes ou squelettes d’animaux, il nous questionne nous les humains, sur nos propres travers et nos vanités. Son approche anatomique presque académique atteste d’une connaissance maîtrisée des morphologies qui lui permet justement de mieux s’en éloigner. Et c’est là qu’intervient le geste de l’artiste notamment avec son travail sur les trophées. Les animaux sont présentés comme des trophées de chasse mais nous sommes dans le détournement et dans l’inversion des rôles. Ils ne sont pas des trophées et au contraire, ce sont eux qui semblent plutôt nous fixer et nous interroger du fond des âges. Ces animaux sont-ils nos contemporains ou des témoignages d’un lointain passé ou d’un futur proche ? C’est là que l’artiste vient brouiller les cartes. Il interroge ainsi à la fois notre rapport au temps et questionne notre identité. Qui est l’homme et qui est l’animal ?
La mise en scène du centre d’art a pris le parti de présenter les sculptures en correspondance avec les immenses dessins qui servent de phase préparatoire à la réalisation des sculptures. Car Quentin Garel -Prix de dessin de l’académie des Beaux-Arts en 1995 et 2003- excelle autant dans le dessin que dans la sculpture. Réalisés au fusain, sortes de «palimpsestes» géants, ils sont eux mêmes enchevêtrements d’études et superpositions de formes animales qui viennent encore ajouter à la richesse du propos. Des études préparatoires qui sont des œuvres à part entière, de par leur format -qui peut aller jusqu’à 11 mètres de long- et de par la fascinante précision du trait ou encore l’harmonie d’une vraie composition qui se dégage de l’ensemble .
Dans son travail de sculpteur, il brûle le bois, il le sable, pour recréer la peau de l’animal, instaurant un jeu subtil entre le sujet, l’animal et la matière des matériaux utilisés. Puis dans un deuxième temps, il fait réaliser à partir des oeuvres « originales » en bois, des bronzes qui sont travaillés de telle manière que seul le toucher permet de faire la différence entre le travail du bois et celui du métal. Quentin Garel est aussi un illusionniste.
Avec le centre d’art de Saint Pierre de Varengeville et Quentin Garel, l’histoire avait commencé dès les débuts de la création du Centre avec l’acquisition du Grand Masque de gorille III en bronze qui a pris place dans le jardin. C’est aussi une histoire de famille aussi avec l’achat du « Panthéon de l’art » de Philippe Garel (le père) présenté dans le superbe sous-sol voûté du château qui fait office de sanctuaire.
Cette rétrospective de 20 années consacrées au travail sur les animaux est pour l’artiste comme une consécration et peut-être aussi l’occasion de tourner la page et de passer à un autre sujet qui pourrait peut être, être un travail sur nous, les humains : « Ça me taraude depuis quelques années. Je m’étais interdit de toucher à la figure humaine à cause de mon père, mais je pense que j’y viens, à 40 ans passés ! »
Quentin Garel est diplômé de l’École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris (1998) et a été résident de la Casa Velazquez de Madrid promotion (1998-1999)
Jusqu’au 6 octobre 2019
Centre d’art contemporain de la MatMut
425, rue du Château, Saint-Pierre-de-Varengeville Seine-Maritime
July 8, 2019
Navigating Rithika Merchant’s Fantastical Worlds Steeped In Modern Myth
“People tend to associate femininity with things which are beautiful but passive, vulnerable, and weak. I strive to break the stereotype of how women are often portrayed in art – either as muses or for their aesthetic qualities. I would like my work to open up a discussion about how women are viewed within society and the role that they are often forced to play. ” – Rithika Merchant
To ponder over Rithika Merchant’s richly detailed paintings is to go down a rabbit hole. Hybrid creatures—half-human, half-animal—totemic iconography and botanical imagery populate the strange and fantastical worlds that she dreams up. Working out of her studio in Barcelona, she employs the gauche and ink technique on stained paper to achieve desaturated or muted colours that lend each of her creations an ethereal, almost otherworldly quality.
Aside from drawing from her personal visual vocabulary, she references myths and epics to navigate the universal themes in mythology and folklore and their degree of similarity around the world. It’s what she likes to call her very own “mosaics of myths”. Her exploration of the cross-cultural parallel between myths, she says, is the result of the combination of having lived in various parts of the world. Merchant grew up in Mumbai, studied Fine Art at Parsons The New School for Design, New York, and at Hellenic International Studies in The Arts, Paros, Greece, and eventually settled in Europe.
As much as her body of work comes from an immensely personal place, it is simultaneously relatable, no matter which country or culture the viewer may come from. As an example, her series “Voyager” deals with the profound effect and sense of helplessness she felt watching the European refugee crisis unfold right on her doorstep. For the Barcelona-based visual artist, the idea of water and migration are inseparable. “The mass displacement of people, forced migration, and the dislocation and exile of many groups of people all over the world are very troubling to me. Being confronted with the ‘Shame Counter’ daily is a reminder of scale and horrors of this crisis. The digital counter was installed by the mayor of Barcelona and displays the number of known victims who drowned in the Mediterranean in real time. This body of work comes from my own feelings generated by seeing the contrast between my life in this city and what this counter represents,” she says.
Merchant, whose work has been showcased at galleries in Paris, Madrid, New York and Lisbon, is in the process of working on a series for a solo show at Galerie LJ in Paris. Notably, she’s one of the rare visual artists who has enjoyed free reign working with a luxury fashion brand. We had the chance to catch up with this fascinating artist, whose works are on show at TARQ in Mumbai at an ongoing group exhibition titled Osmosis. Excerpts from the interview…
Design Pataki: How did your interest in incorporating ideas drawn from myth emerge in your work?
Rithika Merchant: My interest in myths began when I read Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. The book really opened my eyes to the universality of the human experience and how it informed many myths. I have always been very interested in narratives, myths and received histories that are available to us. I am also interested in how these different fragments are ‘woven’ together to from a complete image. Most cultures use imagery to tell stories and represent ideas. I try to use these ancient means of storytelling in a more contemporary context.
DP: What is your process of drawing upon the past to paint a contemporary narrative?
RM: I spend a lot of my time reading and researching ideas I have, or subjects that I am interested in. I will often read something and have a very vivid image in my mind. Sometimes it’s just a flash, and manifesting these ideas comes naturally. I have my own lexicon of symbols and creatures that I use in my work and so I use these along with certain myths as a vehicle to help me as I visualise these ideas and tell stories.
DP: Your thoughts on the way myth and identity inform each other?
RM: In the past, art and stories were often a way to make sense of natural phenomena and psychological events. In modern times and for the foreseeable future, science gives us a complete explanation for most things. However, it places humans as part of a greater scheme rather than the centre of our own narrative. As much as science gives a more accurate description of humanity it takes away the spiritual power given to every human to understand their own destiny. Myth making brings humanity back to the centre of concern.
DP: Is there a mythological figure that you connect with on a personal level?
RM: The 3 legged Raven. This creature inhabits and represents the sun. It is also seen as an animal which inhabits the realm between life and death. This creature speaks to me because the Raven is a symbol of the light and the dark— the duality that inhabits us all.
DP: Feminine entities and symbolism are central to much of your work. What do you hope viewers take away from your work in this regard?
RM: I consider myself a feminist, so I think my work, in general, is quite tinged with these ideals. I am very interested in women’s issues and their place and portrayal within history, myth and folklore.
Some of my work in the show at TARQ also explores feminine identity and the power of women. People tend to associate femininity with things which are beautiful but passive, vulnerable and weak. I attempt to use a variety of feminine symbols to re-contextualize this and present a more rounded idea of femininity. Women can be strong/destructive/beautiful/vulnerable/powerful.
I strive to break the stereotype of how women are often portrayed in art—either as muses or for their aesthetic qualities. I would like my work to open up a discussion about how women are viewed within society and the role that they are often forced to play.
DP: You have enjoyed a continued collaborative relationship with Chloé since 2018, most recently for a capsule collection centered around the Chinese Year of the Pig. Are you always given free rein when it comes to commissioned work?
RM: The prints I worked on for this collection are filled with lots of esoteric and spiritual symbols and botanical imagery, similar to my previous work for them. However, the prints are much more graphic and bold than the work I typically make. The team at Chloé usually gives me a fairly broad brief and then I usually come back to them with a sketch that we fine tune. Natacha (Ramsay-Levi) and the team have been very open and receptive to my ideas, so it’s been quite easy to reach a final product that everyone is happy with.
Villes flottantes et chaos urbain : Swoon, la célèbre street artiste enfin exposée à Paris : https://www.telerama.fr/sortir/villes-flottantes-et-chaos-urbain-swoon,-la-celebre-street-artiste-enfin-exposee-a-paris,n6310855.php?fbclid=IwAR1PxctX04u3m7DXXcCahuIDpQV-QlWG_5jkiwVJ6K7WbdV1HmRql0wJP6Y
Toujours engagée, l’américaine, élabore des œuvres à partir de matériaux fragiles, soudées entre elles par les rencontres. Un art de la résilience au service d’une intelligence collective, qui s’expose actuellement à Paris.
Elle a ce côté un peu stellaire. Swoon entretient une filiation quasi spirituelle avec les forces de la nature, et l’eau en particulier. Celle qui a grandi en Floride, entre marécages et mangroves, vécu un temps sur des radeaux de fortune et accosté au Brooklyn Museum en 2014 avec son exposition Submerged Motherlands, était peut-être prédestinée à investir le nouveau centre d’art flottant qui vient d’ouvrir à Paris. Dans la cale de Fluctuart, on longe les murs de son installation comme les berges d’un fleuve, afin de mieux comprendre les racines de cette plasticienne philanthrope, seule femme à figurer au palmarès des dix plus grands street artistes mondiaux.
Imaginée à partir des vestiges de sa précédente rétrospective au Musée de Cincinnati en 2017, Time Capsuleest donc, comme l’indique le titre, une machine à remonter le temps. Un palimpseste de dessins en linogravures, portes vétustes et linteaux de bois qui retrace les quinze premières années de sa carrière, indissociables des rencontres qui l’ont jalonnées. Parmi les silhouettes, se distinguent des visages familiers, figures paternelles, amis de longue date, et d’autres, plus anonymes, croqués sur les bords des routes de Cuba au Mexique en passant par l’Europe. Intriguée par la manière dont les différentes communautés construisent leur foyer, elle compare les métropoles à des « organismes vivants. » Et dans ses visions de papiers, découpées à la main, ajourées comme la dentelle, l’ossature des villes tend à se confondre avec la charpente des hommes.
Son attrait pour l’écosystème urbain remonte à 1999, lorsqu’elle s’installe à New York pour étudier l’art à l’Institut Pratt. « J’étais fascinée par mon nouvel environnement, la ville, confie la quadragénaire. Dès mes premières interventions dans la rue, je me demandais comment mes dessins pouvaient interagir avec l’architecture, et plus j’y songeais, plus la notion d’espace prenait de l’importance. »
Pour rejouer ce contexte, chacune de ses excursions en galerie et musée se traduit par des œuvres en trois dimensions de façon à ce que « le corps puisse se mouvoir comme l’œil se balade à l’intérieur d’une toile. » Ces constructions conçues à partir de matériaux de récupération, fragiles et périssables, font à écho à sa philosophie de vie alternative.
Swoon, crinière de cuivre et tempérament d’acier, dégage d’emblée une énergie contagieuse. Aussi colossale que les projets artistiques et communautaires qu’elle a mis à flot. Elle a notamment marqué les esprits en construisant, avec les artivistes du collectif Toyshop, sept radeaux qui ont remonté le Mississipi (Miss Rockaway Armada, 2006), navigué sur l’Hudson (Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, 2008), allant jusqu’à franchir la mer Adriatique depuis la Slovénie pour accoster à la Biennale de Venise où elle était invitée en 2009 (Swimming cities of Serenissima). Une flottille de bric et de broc, à mi-chemin entre performance et habitat autogéré, dont on retrouve quelques restes dans l’exposition parisienne.
Sans distinguo, elle met à sa créativité au service de différents modes d’expression et d’action. « Vivre sur des bateaux en était un, reconstruire des maisons dévastées en est un autre », assure celle qui a créé sa propre fondation humanitaire en 2015 : Héliotrope, impliquée dans plusieurs chantiers, notamment en Haïti, pour rebâtir un village en associant technique artisanale et moderne, et à Philadelphie, auprès de toxicomanes.“L’art s’apparente à une forme de guérison”
Un environnement qui ne lui est pas étranger. « Mes deux parents étaient accros à l’héroïne, comme beaucoup d’autres membres de ma famille. Malgré ma colère, j’ai fini par comprendre qu’ils cherchaient à faire taire une souffrance enfouie », explique la jeune femme, opposant les bienfaits de la thérapie à la pénalisation du système américain.
On comprend mieux dès lors pourquoi « l’art s’apparente à une forme de guérison », de catharsis. Des grands désastres aux plaies intimes, il y a chez Swoon cette volonté d’endiguer, de rafistoler. D’embellir aussi. Un caractère flower power assumé, issu de l’héritage familial, tout comme son nom civil très woodstockien, Caledonia Dance Curry. Intuitive, elle décrit son processus créatif comme une suite de tâtonnements, largement guidé par le subconscient. Depuis un an, Swoon se consacre exclusivement à la vidéo en stop motion. « Pour le moment, j’ai besoin de solitude, d’obscurité, pour me sentir aussi ingénue qu’un enfant, un non-sachant, afin que quelque chose de nouveau puisse germer. »
A VOIR : Exposition Time Capsule, jusqu’au 22 septembre, centre d’art urbain Fluctuart, Port du Gros Caillou (7e). Entrée gratuite.
The Brooklyn-based artist details the intersection of personal and global sustainability in her work.
June 26th 2019by Sarah Gooding
photos by Michael Lavine
There have been times when art almost killed Caledonia Dance Curry, the multidisciplinary artist and activist known professionally as Swoon. In 2009, she and thirty friends were nearly run over by a barge while floating in ramshackle rafts from Slovenia to Venice. They had built them out of crates, plywood, and other junk rescued from construction sites and dumpsters across New York City. They sent the scraps in shipping crates to Europe, assembled them into twenty-foot-high floating islands, and set sail across the Adriatic Sea, uninvited, toward the Venice Biennale.
That project, titled Swimming Cities of Serenissima, was a comment on capitalist waste and excess, and it sparked a global conversation about recycling and radical self-reliance. It also cemented Curry’s already-legendary status as an artist.
“I never felt particularly successful as an environmental artist,” says Curry, perched on a chair in the middle of her warehouse studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, not far from the Gowanus Canal, another body of water famed for its floating trash. Faces from her trademark life-size portraits peer out around us—on recycled wooden doors stacked against the walls, on sheets of brown paper hanging from the rafters, on a canvas placed on top of paint cans arranged on the floor. Each surface in the large industrial space has been employed as part of Curry’s artmaking process, but it isn’t a mess. Shelves housing containers of carving tools, string, glue, and other supplies are neatly organized with neon pink labels. As with the rafts, there’s a sense of order to the chaos.
photo by Tod Seelie
“We had a lot of aspirations on that raft trip, but I think we never felt that successful in terms of devising systems,” Curry admits. “In some ways it was great—we ended up producing very little waste, being in this self-created space. But I think that as an artist, you figure out where your strengths are.”
That project may not have gone exactly as Curry intended, but experimenting and pushing boundaries has always been her MO. Her career began twenty years ago with wheatpasted street art while she was a painting student at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Put off by the thought of creating art that would only hang in wealthy people’s homes, Curry started drawing, printing, cutting, and pasting portraits onto walls and surfaces throughout New York. The images were often made from recycled newspaper and were intended to decay over time—but they made a mark.
Curry’s wheatpastings secured the artist her first eponymous solo exhibition, curated by Jeffrey Deitch in 2005. Following that exhibit, her work was added to the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Modern, and she became the first living street artist to have a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2014.
Titled Submerged Motherlands, this exhibition started out as a reflection on climate change and rising sea levels, having been commissioned not long after Hurricane Sandy devastated New York. But after the death of her mother from cancer following a long battle with opioid addiction, Curry found herself exploring more personal, maternal themes.
“I would say that’s one of the times when art saved my life,” she says. “When my mom was dying, it was one of those things where the only thing I could do while she was sick was draw a portrait of her. It felt like this little flagpole of sanity that you hold onto in a strong wind, and you’re like, ‘If I can just make work while this is happening, I can keep rooted to the earth.’” The resulting exhibition was both grounding and groundbreaking—its centerpiece was a sixty-foot tree that utilized the full height of the rotunda, a first for the Brooklyn Museum.
Curry has a way of not doing things by halves, sometimes to her detriment. In 2010, following the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, she and a group of artists, builders, architects, and engineers flew to the country to undertake a project called Konbit Shelter. It saw them build three sustainable houses, one community center, and start English and after-school programs—but they pushed themselves to the brink in achieving those things. “We didn’t know how long it would take, so we ended up cancelling our plane tickets, and we stayed until our health started to fall apart,” Curry recalls. “That was when we were all like, ‘You know what? Even if the final plaster isn’t finished, we’re going to have to leave. The rainy season is taking its toll, we’re working too hard, we’re working too long hours, and we’re just going to have to come back in the winter.’ It was one of those wake-up moments of like, ‘You have to take care of yourself.’ You can’t help others in crisis if you’re driving yourself into the ground.”
“Even though I very much love to harness creativity in service of social change, I also really believe that creativity needs a place to just be born raw.”
Following the death of both of her parents, Curry started to unpack the emotional toll that growing up around opioid addiction had on her. “Personal sustainability feels really big for me right now,” she says. “I found that I was coming from a place of real chaos and woundedness, as somebody who grew up [around] addiction, and just people who struggled a lot. The thing about harboring deep and repressed unconscious wounds is that it makes you do crazy shit. When I look at people who are hoarding so much wealth that they could never spend it in fifty lifetimes, and yet they’re still clear-cutting forests to get that palm oil and build their fortune, I’m like, something’shappening with that person. They’re scared of death, they’re trying to impress their father; there’s some deep psychological processes. If they could just confront the fear of death, if they could just confront the fact that their father is dead and is never going to approve of them, they wouldn’t have to do psychotic things that are harming the planet.”
Acknowledging and dealing with her trauma has enabled Curry to be more sympathetic to herself. She’s begun to take an increasingly measured approach to her work, which has expanded from her original wheatpasting to include a range of practices like performance, architectural installations, and community-building projects around the world. “I realized recently that I was constantly adding projects and I was doing, like, ten at a time, and finally I got to a point where I was like, ‘I can’t do them all simultaneously, I need to alternate a little bit.’ So I set down a bunch of my core practices, which were block printing, wheatpasting, and installation-making, and I put them on hiatus. Because if I didn’t, I wasn’t going to be able to teach myself new things.”
Curry’s work often has a purpose or practical application, whether it’s housing disaster victims, shedding light on climate change issues, or humanizing refugees. Throughout her career she has regularly blurred the line between art and activism—still, she views these things as fundamentally different. “Even though I very much love to harness creativity in service of social change, I also really believe that creativity needs a place to just be born raw,” Curry explains.
This renewed sense of self-sustainability and reckoning with her parents’ addictions inspired a recent project Curry undertook with Mural Arts Philadelphia. There, she hosted art therapy workshops at the Kensington Storefront, a community center in one of the areas that’s been hit hardest by the opioid crisis. The Storefront is a safe space where people can embrace creativity as a step toward healing—just as Curry has done herself. She acknowledges that these things may seem like small gestures, but for an issue that can feel insurmountable, it’s a step in the right direction.
Curry has addressed many overwhelming issues with her work, and is open about the challenges of achieving her lofty goals. She says the abandoned church she’s been trying to rebuild in Braddock, Pennsylvania as part of the Transformazium artist collective has been “a tough nut to crack.” With the collective, she was able to establish a separate company called Braddock Tiles, which “works with folks who are aging out of the Braddock Youth Program and teaches them soft skills so they can get jobs,” but they haven’t been able to transform the church into a fully functional community center just yet. “I discovered that me not living there has just not quite worked out,” she shrugs. “I’m actually looking to transition it. We’re talking to some folks locally, and my hope is to find somebody who’s doing work that’s about bringing up the community, who’s not just a gentrifying developer.”
She acknowledges that it’s important to know “when to call it, and be like, ‘Okay, this is bigger than me, I need help, I need to pass this on.’” Sometimes ending something can be as challenging as beginning it. When she made the decision a year ago to shift away from her primary art practices, she was scared—even though she realized that it was necessary for her personal growth. “Your processes become like a security blanket, and people know you for them, they like them, and they want you to keep doing them. So you feel like, ‘Oh my god, what’s going to happen?’” she laughs nervously. “But you just have to do it!”
She continues, “I feel like, over and over again, my creativity has led me to places that made me feel a little scared. When we first made the rafts, I was like, ‘Girl, what are you doing?’ You could make your creative life so easy right now, but instead you’re digging in dumpsters and living with thirty of your friends on a fucking raft! Like, why are you doing this?!’ But there was a part of my brain that was like, ‘I’m not listening!’”
Curry now incorporates ten-day silent meditations into her annual self-care ritual, along with three-month trips to Panama to surf and work on art away from the bustling city. Having grown up in Florida, she says surfing was a way of life. “When I was a baby, we’d spend months at a time living in some random place by the sea. We’d go to the beach every day, so I think it’s just in my blood. The ocean is my happy place.”
These days, downtime can feel like a luxury many cannot afford—but Curry learned the hard way how crucial taking a break can be. “I burned out a couple of years ago, and even though it sounds really decadent, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to Panama to go surfing for three months!’ It’s a matter of self-care, and it’s a matter of carving out time for primary creativity.”
“When I started giving talks about my family and addressing trauma and doing all these things, I was like, ‘I’m more scared doing this than I am being on a raft that’s breaking down in front of a barge!’ You know? There are different ways of facing your fears at different stages of your life.”
This change in mindset is reflected in her work. As she’s allowed more time for herself, she’s put more of herself into her art, from Submerged Motherlands to her most recent exhibition, Every Portrait Is a Vessel, at Treason Gallery in Seattle, where Curry gave a talk on the very personal inspiration behind the work’s exploration of trauma.
Now in her early forties, Curry can’t believe that she’s done some of the things she has. “Ten years ago I drove a motorcycle across India, and now I would never do that!” she admits. “Maybe I’m becoming a wimp.” She’s still doing things that scare her—she’s just being more emotionally vulnerable, as opposed to physically endangering herself. “When I started giving talks about my family and addressing trauma and doing all these things, I was like, ‘I’m more scared doing this than I am being on a raft that’s breaking down in front of a barge!’ You know? There are different ways of facing your fears at different stages of your life.”
Since her earliest wheat-pastings, her work has cultivated curiosity, and twenty years later that light hasn’t dimmed. Even when she’s confronting the darkest, most harrowing subjects, Curry radiates hope. It makes sense that her first name, Caledonia, means “steadfast or hard-footed.” It originates from an ancient Scottish tribe that fought off the Romans, she says.
She points to a portrait on the wall of a beautiful woman laughing. “That’s a young woman who had left the Syrian Civil War under extreme duress, as a refugee. Her family made their way to Sweden, and I was asked by folks there to help. Sweden had taken on 6 percent of its population in immigrants, and they were like, ‘We need artists who will help us with this moment of welcoming this new community.’ So I linked up with a friend of mine and she helped Maram tell her story, and I made this portrait and put it up in the museum,” she says, referring to Skissernas Museum in Lund, Sweden.
“I was thinking, ‘This woman has been through tragedy that most of us will never even imagine.’ Society is at a place where it’s struggling, but when I look at the news and the images that we’re seeing of people like Maram, it’s 100 percent focused on distress. And the situation is distressing, but if you look at somebody and you’re only ever seeing them in distress, you’re seeing them in a one-dimensional way, so you can’t see the whole of their humanity. I was like, ‘You know what? Maram is in this beautiful town now, she’s starting a new life, let me show a different side of her! Let’s see that she’s actually a normal teenager and she just wants to be happy like everybody else.’ So it was a conscious choice for me to draw her in this really celebratory moment, to show that there’s more to her life than the suffering that she’s been through.”
If there’s a key to solving any of the issues Curry has come up against throughout her career, it’s empathy—whether we are looking inward or at someone else. “I think that people who are in that frame of mind will, in the long run, be making a more sustainable world,” she smiles. “I hope so, anyway!” FL