Art 400: Spotlight On Giovanna Swaby

By in News on May 5, 2012

Too often, art classes act in an “academic vacuum” said College of The Bahamas art instructor, John Cox. To give his advanced students experience in the local art world and to “breathe life into the art program” at The College of The Bahamas, he helps them plan and carry out site-specific art pieces.

The latest location is the new building at The College of The Bahamas, the state-of-the-art Harry C. Moore Library and Information Centre – fitting since Harry C. Moore was a lifelong patron of the arts.

“I think a lot of people don’t know what a supporter of the arts he was and these pieces bring attention to it,” said Cox. “It presents a present and future effort to make the library a monument to contemporary visual expression.”

Over the next few weeks, Arts&Culture will be examining the installations in this library by his Art 400: Advanced Painting students.

Often art pieces are more than what they initially seem.

Those who may have glimpsed the beautiful mural in the video section on the first floor of the Harry C. Moore Library and Information Center by Giovanna Swaby probably felt pleased by its pastel palette and cute imagery – until they explored the piece up close.

In the center, surrounded by painted fluff, lies a tiny video screen on a ten second loop of a dying [bug]. It seems arbitrary, but with a title like “I Keep My Eyes Fixed on the Sun”, Swaby offers an analysis on human behavior when faced directly with adversity.

“I decided to use bold and bright colors for positive happy images to catch the eyes – that’s where you’re supposed to look first, it’s to distract you from what’s really happening at the center and core of things,” Swaby explained. “It’s a metaphor really for how instead of directly managing an issue, you decide to cover it up or distract from it which in turn creates a bigger problem in the end.”

“It’s supposed to be ironic,” she pointed out. “I chose this space because when you walk in from the door you see it from far away. I don’t want the video to be the first thing you see. I’m hoping it attracts people to walk over and see and then discover the video.”

Displaying such a piece in the library of an academic institution gives it a whole other layer of meaning for Bahamian society at large, says the artist.

“I knew the piece was going to be in here so I wanted to do something relevant to the library and learning,” Swaby said.

“I feel like avoidance is a relevant issue in The Bahamas and in some ways how the country is governed – for example how the educational system is designed for regurgitation for a standardized test. There’s no learning going on because there’s no critical thinking, and we don’t directly address that issue.”

The piece was a challenge to construct in order to ensure the video doesn’t overheat, says Swaby, but the payoff is immense – the clash between a painted fairytale cartoon and the reflection of an ugly reality through a TV screen ensures its impact on unassuming viewers.

“I don’t really choose my medium, I come up with a concept or idea first and develop it from there,” she said. “I just thought it was a simple concept and that’s what I usually like to stick with and build around.”

Sonia Farmer
Arts & Culture
The Nassau Guardian
Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012

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