The artist’s work, inspired by queer theory, explores ways of building cultural identity.
This Warsaw-born artist graduated in photography from Yale University and the School of Visual Arts in New York, and now lives and works in Los Angeles. She won an award in the World Press Photo contest for a photograph from her American Girls series, in which she depicted American girls with dolls – their toy counterparts. The above photograph is taken from the I am a Woman… project, published by the prestigious Foam magazine, and exhibited at the Unseen festival in Amsterdam.
In her creative work, Szwarc addresses issues of female identity. ‘Each of my projects is also a story about myself’, she said, adding that what links her to the women in the photographs is a profound empathy. For the I am a Woman… project, the artist changed her working methods – this time setting up situations in front of the camera herself.
In an interview for Culture.pl, Szwarc revealed that she was inspired by the ideas of Judith Butler, an American philosopher and a co-author of queer theory:
I studied in the US, at Yale University, of which Butler was also a graduate, and where she is still often invited. It was also the place where she wrote her book Gender Trouble in the 1990s. […] I am extremely interested in ideas of feminism and gender concepts, which fuel my work.
While preparing for the photo shoot, Szwarc organised casting sessions, searching for American women who looked like her. The star of the photographs is her double, an actress from Dublin. In the photo series, we observe her face being transformed or remodelled. Szwarc, who acts as both director and photographer for the project, ages her model, beautifies her, adds a few kilos, measures her head circumference, confronts her with her reflection, and, at the end, creates a mould of her face, which removes all the layers of her makeup. The artist’s work resulted in three sequences of photographs, which, in the language of Butler, are related to the socio-cultural construction of gender.
Originally written in Polish, translated by AG, edited by MB, Dec 2018
This text is part of the project Metaphors of Independence: Poland In 100 Photos.
To coincide with the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, we have created a selection of photographs that allow us to understand both yesterday and today. A hundred photographs but so much more. Find out more.