Wednesday, September 27, 2023
HomeFashionGio Swaby's Stitched Portraits Reveal Unfinished Beauty

Gio Swaby's Stitched Portraits Reveal Unfinished Beauty

Gioswabi turns inward for a new solo exhibition at Clare Oliver Gallery in Harlem to create textile works. After several years of prolific portraits of her family and friends, she is ready to reflect on her recent turbulent past and express whatever feelings the introspection stirs up.

The resulting seven self-portraits, all made this year, including “I’ll Bloom Anyway,” are on display at Clare Oliver through July . “I’m exploring multiple aspects of my identity and how all these things are connected,” the Bahamian-based artist 15 said at her home in Toronto. Said that she had lived for three years. “I think it’s recording my personal history.”

Standing in front of the works in the exhibition, I’m first struck by the fine black lines on a blank surface – actually a canvas of the underside, which explains the loose threads dangling from the muslin. Like line drawing, the stitched lines are very sparsely delineating the hair, face, and body of the figure. Even with the gorgeous fabrics and patterns and colors of her outfits, I didn’t expect a subtlety to such large portraits, some of which are over 6 feet tall.

“I’ve always been interested in the underside…celebrating the beauty of imperfection,” Swaby says of her decision to flip the canvas and leave hanging threads. We all unravel sometimes; why doesn’t that vulnerability show up? “As a black woman, I want to find some balance to the power we always default to, not just for ourselves, but for everyone else in our lives. I want to be able to find moments of softness.”

Gio Swaby, Where did I know you 3, 2023. Cotton and thread sewn onto muslin, 44 x 15 inches. Courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery.




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