Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TAG Interviews Grace Swanson

Grace Swanson
El Gato & the 4 Gats
digital pigment print 21 x 17 1/2"

What inspired you to paint the cat and dog themes of matchbooks?

It seemed a natural progression from my earlier matchbook paintings featuring restaurants and clubs, which were prompted by my husband's extensive matchbook collection.  In searching for historic matchbooks, I found that there existed a wonderful array of matchbooks featuring cats and dogs. As a pet lover myself, I was sure there would be a universal interest in this new genre.  My belief has been supported by the comments from pet lovers among my friends and family. 

What are the unique challenges for you in undertaking this series?

The current series is more pictorial as opposed to a location-graphic scheme in which the printed name is the most important point of reference. I really had to concentrate on the depicted imagery. Some matchbooks feature animals rendered in a cartoonish style, while others were photographs. Recreating and integrating the broad range of advertising styles, products, and breeds, proved to be a challenging and fascinating undertaking. For example, I found that black cats were the most frequently featured cat in the names and logos of restaurants and bars.  There is the famous Black Cat Cafe in San Francisco and Little Next Door French brasserie in Los Angeles. Contrasting the other colors and designs against the black cats, and even text fonts, to form eye-catching patterns proved to tricky at times.

Grace Swanson
Canine Combustibles
30 x 37 inches

How is the process different for you than creating your restaurant and hotel matchbook paintings? Can you describe it?

The greatest challenge was to find the actual matchbooks.  Unlike the city-oriented matchbooks that reflected more of my own personal dining and traveling experiences, cats and dogs really narrowed my choices to just a few from Southern California. I joined two matchbook collecting clubs and they, along with EBay, have provided auction and trading opportunities to find the perfect matchbooks.  Even better, is that many friends have begun gathering matchbooks for me or to add to my collection.

What would you like viewers to take away from the experience of seeing your work?

Pet lovers will find themselves engrossed in locating their favorite breeds and viewing the range of products and locales advertisers have showcased through matchbooks.  Some will recognize well-known restaurants such as the Ells Quarter Gats in Barcelona or Le Chat Noir in Paris. Others will take pleasure in nostalgic memories of the motorized Coppertone billboards or the time travelling Mr. Peabody and his pet boy Sherman cartoons. Overall, I hope the viewers enjoy my effort to merge the kitsch and graphic nature of advertising with the nostalgia of pop culture.

Grace Swanson 
Grace Swanson's exhibit opens June 19, 2012. 

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