The Brooklyn-based artist was born in Connecticut and the son of a U.S. Marine. When he moved to San Francisco in the ‘90s, Swanson was surrounded by the city’s gay and counterculture scene. Neither environment -- small-town, wooded New England nor San Francisco’s flamboyant gay pride -- felt like home to him, and he confronts this duality of identities in his work.
On display through April 25 at the Baldwin Gallery, his crystal-covered deer head sculptures embrace the conflicting nature of masculine identities that he was feeling at the time.
More generally, Swanson is a contemporary American artist who is known for his handmade work that brings together formal preoccupations and references to personal history and identity conflict. He works in a variety of media, including sculpture, drawing, video, photography, and complex installations. In addition to the series of rhinestone-based sculptures, which he continues to explore, his sculptural work employs a variety of materials, including light, wood, glass, fabric, gold and silver chain, mirror, and naturally-shed animal antlers.
Swanson is a graduate of Bard College, and his works have been part of group exhibitions at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Miami Art Museum; and the Saatchi Gallery, London.
“The Gilded Cage” perfectly demonstrates the struggles Swanson feels between his past and future. Furthermore, the struggles that Aspen sometimes faces -- preservation versus progress -- are also reflected in his pieces, making the Baldwin Gallery’s show particularly relevant to this time and place.
If you go: Baldwin Gallery, 209 S. Galena St. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 12-5 p.m. baldwingallery.com.