NEW ORLEANS, LA.-
This summer, the New Orleans Museum of Art
unveiled a new large scale, site-specific installation by the internationally renowned artist Swoon. This installation, entitled Thalassa, is named for and inspired by the Greek goddess of the sea. The work began with a careful examination of NOMA's Great Hall and was specifically designed for the space. Thalassa will be on display until September 25.
"This exhibition launches a series of commissioned site-specific works for NOMA's Great Hall," said NOMA Director Susan Taylor. "Each summer, the museum plans to work with an artist to create a project for this dramatic space. Whether inspired by New Orleans or the space itself, we hope to engage artists and our community in an ongoing conversation about contemporary art. Swoon's Thalassa is a dramatic, thought-provoking piece that will speak to all audiences."
The twenty-foot tall piece depicts a monumental female deity with extended tentacles rising from the waters, her body comprised of colorful swathes of fabric and aquatic creatures. The work is made of an enormous reinforced linocut enhanced with prints and paper cutouts.
"As an artist known for intricate and evocative work both in gallery spaces and in the streets, Swoon was an ideal artist for NOMA to engage with," said Miranda Lash, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. "Her installation invigorates our Great Hall with powerful imagery, and positions the museum as a window to artistic currents flowing outside our doors. Swoon has a talent for transforming the everyday into the mythical."
Swoon's installation of Thalassa is inspired by New Orleans' ties to the sea. New Orleans depends on water for commerce, transportation, energy, and food. The installation is named after the Greek goddess revered as the mother of all sea creatures. The octopus motif also links the piece to New Orleans' legendary red-light district, Storyville, where denizens of its brothels were likened to many-armed creatures separating sailors from their money. The piece thus connects to both New Orleans' past and present, as well as its complex and deep history as a port city.
During the past three years, Swoon developed a close relationship to the city of New Orleans and several New Orleans-based artists. In 2008, she began wheat-pasting her paper cutouts on walls in the Bywater neighborhood. Since then, she has been involved in an ongoing collaboration with the New Orleans Airlift (an organization dedicated to the cross-pollination of artistic ideas between New Orleans and other countries) on the creation of a musical arts venue and house in the Bywater called Dithyrambalina. "Every city that I go to, I try to absorb a little bit from each place," said Swoon.
Based in New York, Swoon has been recognized internationally for her large-scale paper cutouts which she wheat pastes on the exteriors of buildings. Her work often depicts portraits of families, friends, and residents of local neighborhoods performing everyday activities such as working, cycling, or sitting on stoops. As an artist working extensively in prints and cutouts, Swoon takes inspiration from the German Expressionists of the early twentieth century as well as Indonesian shadow puppetry. In 2005 she began displaying her installations in gallery settings in addition to her outdoor installations.