Fellows Friday: Q&A with Paul Swenbeck

Paul Swenbeck, 2013 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

As part of our “Fellows Friday” web feature, we focus on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges. This week, we speak to 2013 Pew Fellow Paul Swenbeck, a visual artist primarily working in clay whose fascination with the macabre has filtered into his idiosyncratic sculptures, paintings, photographs, and installations.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?

I really care about animals and, if I could, I’d like to help them survive in a world dominated by destructive people. I would like to learn to communicate with dolphins. This idea gets bounced around a lot in science fiction, and in reality, with the work of John Lilly. I think if we could grasp the consciousness of the animals around us, there would be a lot more vegetarian people in the world.

What is your favorite title of an art work?

The Insect Chorus is the title of a Charles Burchfield painting that I really love.

What music are you listening to? Which books are on your bedside table?

I’ve started re-listening to all the records I bought before CDs were invented: Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance, all the stuff on 4AD, the Fall, and New Order. I have a stack of science-fiction books piled up next to the bed: China Mieville’s Embassytown, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, and Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet.

Whose opinion do you respect most?

I respect my wife Joy [Feasley, 2011 Pew Fellow]’s opinion the most. She’s in charge of the big decisions for our family. I’m more timid about change, but she pushes us to our bigger dreams. We’ve been together for almost 30 years and have evolved our visions of art in parallel lines.

Performance artist Anya Evans will present her ongoing performance piece Operation Catsuit.

Located in Independence National Historical Park, the Independence Visitor Center is the official visitor center of Philadelphia and the region and is the primary point of orientation for Independence National Historical Park, the City of Philadelphia, and the Southern New Jersey and Delaware River Waterfronts, as well as Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Sam Miller is the former president of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and currently serves on the Board of Amrita in Phnom Penh. He served as a Center dance panelist and LOI panelist in 2013, Pew Fellowships evaluator in 2014, and Pew Fellowships Panel Chair in 2015.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Tacita Dean is esteemed for her drawings, photographs, prints, and sound works. In early 2013, her new film, JG, was on view at the Arcadia University Art Gallery.

Grants & Grantees

Vox Populi presented a group exhibition with guest-curator Malik Gaines that explored various tactics for representing the complex, contradictory legacies of cultural difference.

Grants & Grantees

In 2007, the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 83 dance, music, theater, and visual arts organizations and practitioners in the greater Philadelphia region.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Christopher Williams is a dancer, choreographer, and puppeteer who has crafted and performed choreographic works in New York City and abroad.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1827, dedicated to creating beauty and building community through gardening, greening, and learning.

This project investigated various issues surrounding (co-)authorship in cultural production, asking questions around definitions of authorship, collaboration, audience participation, the influence of marketplace, and other concepts.

Shonibare’s exhibition explored concepts of cultural identity, authenticity, colonialism, and empire, and includes three new pieces—the Barnes Foundation’s first commission from an artist since 1930.

Visual artist and Pew Fellow Pepón Osorio talks about the relationship between artistic practice and “the local.”

Raphael Xavier and Eileen Neff receive Guggenheim Fellowships, exhibitions by visual artists Alex Da Corte and Ryan Trecartin make a splash in national venues, and Tania Isaac and Meg Foley each present new dance works in Philadelphia.