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Ilona Szwarc: I am Woman and I Feast On Memory


Flesh and identity transform paradoxically or maybe not.

The memory of photography expels the moment of its capture. Photographs are not of moments; they are mindful of thoughts and a concise palette of composition. Ilona Szwarc calms the maelstrom of her mind into a ruse of concealed identity. She is becoming an endeavor of self and gender. The feast she provides is an inquisition into body and how we redesign those fleshy concepts. Her images, conceptual and confusing in their heady assurance, require looking. Szwarc is no fool – she is incredibly smart – she gifts her photography this reward.

Points of interest are articulated – however – Szwarc has allowed I am Woman and I Feast On Memory a good amount of personal viewership. This authenticity is nearly abstract but not completely impersonal. A casual comparison to Cindy Sherman is just that, casual. The imagery of Szwarc’s work undoubtedly calls to certain photographic conversations, but she furthers much more contemporary contexts. In the photos we see a woman transformed by makeup and gesture, by the hands of another. In actuality the hands applying makeup are Szwarc herself. The main subject is a woman specifically cast to resemble her in both look and body.

Not nearly a mirror but still a sort of applied reflection. Looking at the photographs of these thoughtful constructions bares a thought, “I see myself seeing myself. I am not what I imagined myself to be.” It strikes me that Szwarc is challenging notions of both portraiture and self-portraiture. There is one of the most honest betrayals shrouded in so much layering. How do we relate to each other? How do we become ourselves? In turning toward herself there is a staged transformation of deconstructing details and rebuilding typology. There is a strange and uncanny misuse of womanhood in these images, a ploy so as to redefine and reclaim feminine culture.

Szwarc has created a beautifully treated platform for I am Woman and I Feast On Memory. A limited edition set of three artists’ books walks viewers through her narrative. These books embody the interaction between characters, mark making, and photography. Szwarc’s way of playing with imagery creates confusion between expectations and feminism. As the books progress there is witness to dissection of identity that yields a removal of searching until identity is totally obliterated. What does it mean to be a person if not totally contradictory in its simplicity? The body becomes new in its abstracted ability to not be what it was.

See more of szwarc’s work and find out more about the books here :

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