Loren Schwerd: Mourning Portrait

01/15/10- 03/26/10

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This solo exhibit features a series of work by sculptor and mixed media artist Loren Schwerd, currently an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Louisiana State University. An opening reception will take place Thursday, Jan. 21st from 5-7 pm. Additionally, the artist will give a lecture on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 6 pm at UNC Asheville Owen Conference Center. Mourning Portrait began as a series of memorials to the communities of New Orleans that were devastated by the flooding which followed Hurricane Katrina. Working from photographs Schwerd took of vacant houses from the Ninth Ward neighborhood, she creates metal armatures that act as the frameworks for weaving the hair into portraits of these homes. These commemorative objects are made from human hair extensions of the type commonly used by African-American women that the artist found outside the St. Claude Beauty Supply. The portraits draw on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century tradition of hairwork, in which family members or artisans would fashion the hair of the deceased into intricate jewelry and other objects as symbols of death and rebirth. This series venerates the city’s losses, both individual and collective. Hair acts as the central metaphor to evoke a sense of intimacy and absence, and speaks to the racial politics that have paralyzed the city’s recovery effort. In the two years that Schwerd has been researching and executing this work, the series has expanded into a larger body of objects and images that utilize a broader range of techniques and provide a richer context for the houses, such as sculptures, shaped from found wigs, that combine imagery from Victorian hair wreaths with contemporary, sculptural, African-American hair fashions. Loren Schwerd received her BFA in Studio Art from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1993, and her MFA in Sculpture from Syracuse University in New York in 1999. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at the Louisiana State University School of Art in Baton Rouge and was an instructor and visiting Assistant Professor at the College of Charleston from 1999 to 2005. The artist states about her work: ‘My artistic practice includes site-related installations, wearable art, video and sculptures that are inspired and shaped by the impulse to transform familiar objects into metaphorical constructions and paradoxical observations. I investigate the multiple associations that are present in a material, site, image, or gesture, seeking to identify and enhance points of connection and tension between these suggestions. I favor found materials that contribute their function, cultural value, and a trace of their mysterious personal history to my design. All of my projects demonstrate a dedication to craft. I employ basic methods of connection such as tying, weaving, and stitching, imbuing my work with a feminine sensibility, and whose meticulous labor evokes a sense of time, memory, and obsession. Permeating all of my creative endeavors is a slightly dark humor and a fascination with awkward beauty.’ 
Loren Schwerd, Loren Schwerd’s work has been exhibited widely. Select venues include the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, MI; Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston

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