Born 1972, New Bedford, Massachusetts
Carolyn Swiszcz grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, once a whaling capital and now characterized by old, weathered storefronts. Swiszcz (a Polish name that her family pronounces swiz) has this bygone sensibility in her bones. “I gravitate to places that time forgot,” she says of her subject matter.1 Often these are homely little buildings where you can get a dent or a tooth repaired—or buy a pet fish, a bratwurst, or a pawned table saw. Lately she has been drawn to chiropractors’ offices (“We treat whiplash”). She likes architecture from the 1970s, the decade in which she was born. If you try to find something she’s pictured, however, it’s apt to have been vacated or torn down. “It happens all the time,” Swiszcz says. The Savoy pizzeria that she memorialized in the 2017 Highpoint print Savoy Inn, St. Paul, closed that same year with the death of its eighty-two-year-old founder. Lately her all-consuming subject is the local donut hangout Granny Donuts , whose aesthetic she finds irresistible. “Places like this have a jumble of visual information that I find really exciting,” she says.2
Swiszcz combines painting, printmaking, and often Citation: In printmaking, materials or objects that are affixed to the surface of a print by gluing or other means and intended as part of the final composition. (rubber stamps, stencils, scraps of paper from previous projects) in what one art critic called a faux-naïve style, a phrase she likes because it implies that she approaches her subject with heart. Her mother is an amateur genealogist; her father was a machinist and foreman at Revere Copper and Brass in New Bedford. She still has a couple of Revere Ware pots in her kitchen cupboard. She came to the Twin Cities to attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where she received a BFA in printmaking in 1994. She lives in West St. Paul with her husband, photographer and fellow MCAD alumnus Wilson Webb. Since 2017, Swiszcz has produced a bimonthly zine called Zebra Cat Zebra, the words she repeatedly heard her father say into the phone when telling someone how to spell his last name.
In addition to Minnesota State Arts Board grants (2020, 2007), Swiszcz has received fellowships from the McKnight Foundation (2009), Bush Foundation (2002), and National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (1997–2000), as well as a Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists (1997–98). Her work has appeared in such shows as “Brick x Brick” (2016), Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul; “Near and Far: Contemporary Landscape Painting” (2014), St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota; and “Selections” (2001), Drawing Center, New York. In addition to “Inventory” (2015) at the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program, inspired in part by a job in her twenties doing inventory at a grocery store, Swiszcz has had solo shows at Plains Art Museum, Fargo, North Dakota; Groveland Gallery, Minneapolis; Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery, New York; and Shonandai Gallery, Tokyo, among others.
—Marla J. Kinney
Carolyn Swiszcz, phone conversations with the author, March 2020. ↩︎
“Alone with Materials,” Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery, New York, April 30, 2020, http://projects.miyakoyoshinaga.com/telling-evening/alone-with-materials. ↩︎