Hilary Swingle (b. 1983) is a self-taught artist whose recent autobiographical portraits use symbolism and highly detailed compositions to explore her struggle with social anxiety. Her solo show titled “Fight or Flight” will be on view online through 33 Contemporary Gallery in May 2021.
BY HILARY SWINGLE
“Man is imperfect.” This was a sentiment often uttered in my home while growing up. Therefore, if perfection is unattainable, contentment necessitates finding the beauty within our imperfections. My current work aims to highlight the unease created when our expectations and reality bifurcate but also invite the viewer to find serenity within this disunion.
One of the most unique aspects of my early life was being raised in a home that did not celebrate birthdays or holidays of any kind. It was more than a simple lack of these festivities, it was a complete and total abstention from anything adjacent to these observances.
This often put me in difficult situations while attending public school in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, a conservative community that heavily emphasizes family traditions. If a classmate’s mother brought in cupcakes for their birthday I would have to leave class and read a book in the hallway. When we were learning songs for our Christmas pageant I would be as silent and still as stone.
Around the holidays, I always had to ask the teacher for assignment substitutions, which was met with varying degrees of annoyance. I was a shy child and I was made to explain the reasons for my aberrant behavior constantly.
I have long struggled with social anxiety and 2020 provided me with much time for introspection. I began to explore the threads of this affliction through my paintings and I kept returning to the possibility that the challenges I faced during my earliest socialization experiences in school may have been a contributing factor.
The series largely consists of self-portraits and portraits of my sister. Painting my sister into this body of work created an additional layer of sentimentality for this project. She understood exactly what I was attempting to convey because we obviously shared so many of the same experiences growing up.
In the paintings we are covered with gift bows; a ubiquitous item for many of these celebrations. The bows are bright, colorful and reflective but the paintings are not jubilant. The bows are burdensome and inflict an irrational weight on the subjects.
The juxtaposition is meant to feel a little jarring for the viewer to serve as a reminder that our humanity is shared even though our experiences may differ greatly.
Additional Realist Portraits by Hilary Swingle:
About the Artist
Hilary Swingle is based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is a figurative realist oil painter working in the indirect painting method. Her art has been sold to private collections in the United States and she was recently awarded Juror’s Choice in the 2020 Utah Women Artists Exhibition. She is represented by 33 Contemporary Gallery, Chicago.
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