Brooklyn-based mixed-media artist Swoon and Detroit’s Library Street Collective gallery are pleased to present The Light After, an exploration of the transition between life and death through the anecdotal lenses of the “near-death experience” and the “empathetic death experience.” The installation’s concept came from Swoon’s experience with what she later identified as the latter; explained the artist:
“When my mother passed away in 2013, I was asleep at the time. I awoke inside a dream to see falling snow. The snow started to open up into blossoms of light as it passed through my body, and it carried with it my mother's voice. I woke up knowing that my mother had passed away, but I felt a little crazy for believing such a thing possible. My sister called shortly after to confirm that my mom had indeed passed. In the years following this intensely strange and profound experience, I discovered through research that it was a rare but extant phenomenon called the ‘empathetic death experience.’”
Covering approximately 2,500 square feet of gallery walls and ceilings with hundreds of handcut paper and Mylar elements, the intricate and highly immersive The Light After will explore the sensory aspect of the transition between life and death by site-specifically responding to the duality of the downtown Detroit gallery’s architecture: the front space of the gallery, the deep, rectangular ground floor of a former vacuum factory built in 1926, will be host to the installation’s “tunnel,” the vortex that precedes the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.” This rectangular front space feeds into a much narrower hallway, which then emerges into a more open, modern space—a former garage, bright with floor-to-ceiling windows–which Swoon will transform into the installation’s “meadow.”
Accompanying The Light After will be a limited edition print, Snow Blossoms, which Swoon identifies as the visual manifestation of her empathetic death experience; an aggregate of the installation’s “tunnel” section. “It's a big topic, but I think that the people who the concept resonates with will appreciate seeing an artist trying to take it on,” said Swoon. “And the people who don't know or care to explore these phenomena can hopefully still appreciate the installation’s decorative tranquility.”
During The Light After’s run, the gallery will have twelve standalone Swoon works available for private viewing. These pieces include a 3.5’-wide, 6.5’-tall, 1’-deep “installation box” whose concept stemmed from a conversation between Swoon and collector Swizz Beatz; Swoon wanted to create a self-contained multidimensional installation that encapsulated the complexity of her sprawling, site-specific installations—but in a format that could be installed in a collection setting with its original orientation uncompromised by the need for spatial amenability.
Nearby, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) will exhibit Swoon’s large-scale Thalassa, previously on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Installed site-specifically at the DIA to accentuate the native curves, corners, and arches of the Beaux-Arts building’s Woodward Avenue entrance, the massive sculpture, featuring a linoleum block print of the sea goddess Thalassa and extensively adorned with paper, fabric, and Mylar cutouts, will suspend from the ceiling.
In addition to The Light After and in conjunction with the Detroit Institute of Arts’ exhibition of Thalassa will be a Thalassa-inspired mural in Detroit’s Jefferson-Chalmers district, to be completed by Swoon in collaboration with local artists.