MINDFUL: EXPLORING MENTAL HEALTH THROUGH ART
FULLER CRAFT MUSEUM
455 OAK STREET
THROUGH APRIL 22
by Beth Neville
“Memento Mori,” a woodblock print with cut mylar crafted by Swoon, is a technical “tour de force” that dominates the Fuller Craft Museum’s “Mindful” exhibition.
Memento mori in Latin means remembrance of death. This writer’s first-born baby girl died at four months of age, and Swoon’s imagery brings back all the sadness and anguish of that loss. In a dance of life and death, Swoon’s four images of women are surrounded by skeletons and fleshless skulls, somewhat softened by a lacy pattern of palm fronds and curling cloud patterns. Her complex image begins with an aging-dying woman whose fleshless arms and hands embrace a smiling, young woman embracing a little girl. This young woman’s upper torso morphs into a bony pelvis from which dangles a uterus with unborn baby. Swoon surrounds the unborn baby, held like a ball, between two full-breasted skeletons. They in turn give birth to strings of screaming heads, like some paper-chain of grief. The macabre imagery recalls the sexuality of Hieronymus Bosch, ca. 1500, but with more emphasis on human grief than bizarre sex.
Considering the technical difficulty of “Momento Mori,” it is no surprise that Swoon is academically trained. The large size of the wood block, 84” x 67”, calls for great skill in cutting away all the wood except the parts that will become the “black lines.” Albrecht Dürer (Nuremburg, ca. 1500) and his Northern Renaissance contemporaries were so skilled in wood block that it is often difficult to believe it involved cutting into wood. Swoon is just as clever with a knife and gauge. In addition, she embellishes the imagery with cut Mylar. A popular new medium, Mylar is easier as it only involves cutting away the white. The Mylar lacy fringe extends the work outward on the gallery wall space and gives it, at first glance, a decorative quality. An examination of Swoon’s potent death symbols quickly overrides this first impression.