Meet Patricia Swanson - Artist in Residence

All Photos by Matthew Beck

All Photos by Matthew Beck

Can you describe your work for us in 7 words or less?
Stories, layers, time, memory, experimentation, process, ethereal.

Being an artist can be a challenging profession, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Oh geeze, that’s a good question. I would say first off, to have more confidence in my work and to know that it’s ok to not have all the answers. It took me a long time to understand that there’s no “right way” to make art, there’s only what works for me so I need to trust my own process and trust my instincts.

What are you listening to at the moment?
I made a summer playlist that’s kind of all over the place but it’s upbeat and keeps me motivated, it features songs from SZA, Otis Redding, Local Natives, a bunch of random songs from the 80’s and a whole lot of other stuff.


What do you look at for inspiration?
I actually find that Instagram is a great place for me to find inspiration. I’ve been able to find way more current artists working in similar processes or with similar ideas as me that I can’t find just doing a google search. I like that there are a lot of artists who use that platform to not only show finished work but also show their process or use it like a sketchbook and having access to that has exposed me to a lot of new and interesting ideas.

I also read a lot and I find that whenever I’m stuck or need to get my mind moving, that reading usually breaks me out of whatever funk I’m in.

What artists inspire you most?
I feel like this is always changing depending on what I’m working on, right now I’m inspired by artists working in traditional photographic processes who are intentionally breaking the mold of what’s considered traditional such as Odette England and Bruno Roels. Some of my long standing favorites have been Duane Michals, John Baldessari, and Moyra Davey.   

Over the last year or two I’ve been reading a lot of work from Rebecca Solnit, she’s one of my favorite contemporary writers. I love the way she tells stories from her own life and then weaves in historical narratives, I always come away feeling like I know myself and the world a little better.  


Who would be a dream artist to collaborate with?
Maybe Moyra Davey, I could see us sending each other photographs in the mail and responding to each other’s perspectives on home and daily life.

What’s something that you learned early in your career that you feel made you a better artist
I would say learning how to interpret feedback. Getting other people’s opinions on my work can be great but I learned how to cherry-pick what’s helpful and what isn’t. Sometimes negative feedback is more insightful than someone who just showers me with praise but doesn’t actually question me. I have a few people in my life whose opinions I trust and respect and who I know I can find encouragement in but are also not afraid to take me to task.

Why did you apply to become a resident at Jasper Studios?  And what do you hope to achieve during the residency program?
I was excited about the Jasper residency because what I’ve needed most for my practice was a dedicated space where I could work and think creatively. After I finished grad school last year, I no longer had a studio and even though I was still making here and there, I didn’t have a place where I could focus my energy and being at Jasper has allowed me to do that.

I have been working on a handmade book project that’s loosely inspired by The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. The book is called In Dreams and explores how photographs function as placeholders for memories and dreams and how that frames the way I see and understand myself and my own history. I’ll be making a small edition that will be printed with the kallitype process which is a historical photographic process. I will also be making larger prints of images from the book.