Brandon Sward artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of December 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Brandon some questions about his work and studio practice:
Q: Please tell us about your background.
I was born in the Los Angeles area and grew up in Colorado. While I’ve taken art classes, I don’t possess any academic degrees in art and am not exactly sure how long I’ve been making it, primarily because I’m very bad at knowing what art is. I guess I started doing things I thought were art about a year ago, but I’ve also come to retrospectively consider some of my earlier activities as a latent artistic practice. This of course quickly raises the question of whether artists are born or made, as well as the role of technique and the subconscious in artistic production, and now you probably regret asking me this question (I blame graduate school—I’m currently a doctoral student at the University of Chicago).
Q: How would you describe your work?
I consider performance to be my home medium. I trained extensively as an actor, singer, and dancer during my adolescence and find myself constantly returning to these modalities, albeit in radically different ways. Perhaps I’m reaching, but I think that even my drawings and prints have a performative quality in how they reveal their own making, giving a sense of the body even in its absence.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
The beginning is always the idea. I don’t know where ideas come from or how. I only know I have absolutely no control over them and in this way they’re similar to the Christian concept of “grace” (I grew up Catholic and while I’m no longer a believer, I remain intensely interested in theology and mysticism). Sometimes I feel like my ideas are my children; that they have an existence independent of me and that I’m a sort of midwife tasked with bringing them into being. Ultimately, I want them to find places in the world where they can thrive. In that way, I’m maybe a kind of foster parent…
Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
I don’t know how I could say anyone other than Marcel Duchamp, the first person who understood how dumb art could be.
Q: Where are your favorite places to see art?
Unconventional spaces. There’s a lot of great work in galleries and museums, but when you walk through those doors, you’re effectively putting on your “art goggles.” It’s much more exciting to encounter something out in the “real world” and to have to ascertain whether it’s art (this may be related to my interest in performance, which often occurs in public).
Q: Who inspires you and why?
Ms. Lauryn Hill for her obstinance. Andrea Fraser for her authenticity. Rei Kawakubo for her vision. St. Francis of Assisi for his commitment. Lana Del Rey for her lyricism. Sigmund Freud for his iconoclasm. Frank O’Hara for his joy. Rainer Werner Fassbinder for his honesty. José Esteban Muñoz for his seriousness. PJ Harvey for her mutability. Anne Sexton for her vulnerability. Pier Paolo Pasolini for his weirdness. But most of all my friends, who are truly the most extraordinary people.
Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I don’t know whether I’m going to undertake any new projects while I’m here; I have a lot of cleanup and organizational tasks I’d like to get done (editing, transcription, writing, installation, documentation, etc.).
About half of my work deals with childhood and its ramifications upon later life. These pieces involve toys, character sketches, and a strange lecture about my parents’ divorce. The other half of my work is more conceptual and tries to push “institutional critique” beyond the museum. These pieces present art-adjacent activities like journalism, residencies, and talks as themselves works of art.
Q: What’s next for you?
Learning to more fully surrender to my process (compare with divine surrender).
I also have another residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in March.
Q: Where else can we find you?
I’m pretty good at updating my website: brandonsward.com. Otherwise, I’m on Instagram like everyone else @brandonsward. You can follow my rabid thoughts on Twitter @brandon_sward. Facebook is for old people, though I still have an account for events mostly. Add me on LinkedIn because I need more connections.