Marc Swanson (American, b.1969) works in diverse media, including sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, video, and installation. The artist employs a refined range of materials, relying on a concentrated vocabulary of wood, glass, textile, naturally-shed animal antlers, and precious metals. He often juxtaposes “high” and “low” materials in the same work: rhinestones, gold and silver chain, and black mirrored panels meet lumberyard two-by-fours and white cotton t-shirts coated in latex. In these juxtapositions, the former adorns the latter in a way that is transformative for both. 

The artist grew up the son of an ex-Marine and avid hunter in small-town New England. He then moved to San Francisco in the early 1990s and became involved in the city’s gay counterculture and club scene. He did not feel totally at home in either place, and he began making his first mature work—the crystal-covered deer head sculptures for which he is perhaps best known—as a way to explore, both physically and spiritually, the duality of masculine identities he was experiencing. To this day, this investigation of personal history saturates his work in all media, as does a quiet nostalgia that accompanies such a mining of the artist’s past. As the critic David Velasco writes, “Swanson is an automythologist, one who excels at crafting sparkling, enigmatic totems from the messiness of his own history.” The artist has also been called an alchemist, recasting the aesthetic and cultural connotations of his materials through a visceral, highly personal narrative. 

Swanson received his MFA from the Milton Avery Graduate School at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and also studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine. Swanson’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum, at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, and the Saint Louis Art Museum, and in 2011 he will have a solo show at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. He was commissioned to make the 2009 Peter Norton Family Christmas Project, and in the fall of 2010 he will complete a large-scale outdoor sculptural commission for the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, in Kansas City. He lives and works in Brooklyn.