From minimal outlines in black thread, empowering portraits of Black women emerge in new large-scale textile pieces by Toronto-based artist Gio Swaby (previously). Vivid fabrics with an emphasis on florals dominate her new body of work titled I Will Blossom Anyway, on view now at Claire Oliver Gallery, emphasizing brightness, joy, and self-love. Centering on a number of self-portraits, her recent artworks reflect on personal identity, embarking on an introspective journey toward acceptance and compassion.
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Swaby’s interest in textiles ties her to a childhood surrounded by the materials her mother often used in her work as a seamstress. She was born and raised in The Bahamas before moving to Canada, where she has spent most of her adult life, and she draws on conflicted feelings about a sense of belonging and navigating what she poetically describes as her “many selves.” She says, “I reflected a lot on my own path and started to recognize how many parts of myself exist in the in-between spaces.”
In her nearly-life-size self-portraits, the artist looks directly at the viewer yet always appears relaxed, embracing tranquil moments of rest. Loose threads occasionally abandon their outlines, dangling or wandering around the canvas as if they have a mind of their own, highlighting the never-finished process of growth, evolution, and self-understanding.
I Will Blossom Anyway runs through July 29 in Harlem and coincides with her solo exhibition Fresh Up at the Art Institute of Chicago, which continues through July 3. Find more on the artist’s website and on Instagram.
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