Street Artist Swoon's Creative Community

Paper cut out by Swoon. Image via Revel in New York. Photo by Joann Jovinelly 

If you've walked through any New York neighborhood within the past couple of years, you may have come across some street art that stopped you in your tracks. Artist Swoon (real name Caledonia Dance Curry) has been adorning the city's walls with her intricately detailed paper cutout pieces since 1999. A native of Daytona Florida, Swoon studied painting at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute and continues to live and work in the city. But as Swoon's work continues to grow in popularity, her ideas continue to evolve and grow more expansive in their scope. It's as if she's extending a hand to her audience and saying, "Like what you see? Come be a part of it."
Swimming Cities of the Switchback Sea installation. Image via Deitch Projects. Photo by Kristy Leibowitz  
In 2008 Swoon and a team of collaborators created Swimming Cities of the Switchback Sea, an installation of seven boats handmade from salvaged materials which were launched into New York's Hudson River for a 3 week journey. The boats made stops on their journey from upstate Troy, New York to Long Island City, Queens for riverside performances by the boats' crews (each one held between 9 and 13 people).

Swoon's Thalassa installation. Image via Designboom. Photo copyright Swoon.
Swoon's latest projects take place in New Orleans, a city with rich cultural roots where many contemporary artists are collaborating, experimenting, and breathing new life into a landscape still recovering from disaster. Swoon created Thalassa, a hauntingly beautiful installation suspended from the ceiling of the New Orleans Museum of Art. The installation, which is named for the Greek goddess of the sea as well as the century old hall it resides within, depicts the goddess rising into the air surrounded by creatures of the sea. Swoon wanted to pay homage to the city's ties to the ocean as a source of food, energy, commerce, and transportation. 

Detail of Thalassa. Image via Designboom. Photo copyright Swoon.  
Swoon's latest New Orleans project is literally "to build a musical house." The house, which will be built in collaboration with a team of builders, artists, and musicians, will be an interactive structure. The house will have musical and percussive elements so that visitors can literally "play" it. According to street artist website Wooster Collective, "a growing group of local and national sound artists are working towards interactive instruments that can be built into its walls and floorboards so that visitors can bring the house to life through their touch." The house will also be open for musicians to play orchestrated works, with the idea of having neighborhood block parties at the site.
Quarter scale model of  The Dithyrambalina musical house. Image via Wooster Collective.

The musical house, named the Dithyrambalina, will be fully funded thanks to a successful campaign on fundraising website Kickstarter,  and is to be built in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans.  Like most of Swoon's artistic endeavors, Dithyrambalina will be created from salvaged materials. The house will be built from the remains of a blighted cottage that stood on the building site.

Swoon's work represents the possibility of all the artistic process can be: accessible, collaborative, and interactive. And in this time of economic hardship, her use of recycled materials--the creation of something new from the remnants of what came before--is refreshing. It serves as a reminder that to make art, one merely needs to be creative, resourceful, and willing to call on their community.