Spotlight: Nastassja E. Swift

Nastassja E. Swift was the 2019 Creative in Residence for the Children's Museum of Richmond.

Published on February 15, 2021

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During her time at CMoR, Nastassja E. Swift focused on bringing wool to life for our visitors and created three permanently installed sculptures for our Downtown location. Nastassja is a VCUarts Alum, former Virginia Commission of the Arts Fellow, and is currently working on an exhibit in Philadelphia. Read on to learn more about Nastassja from a recent interview!


How has your time at CMoR influenced your work?

“It was one of the earlier times where my practice was positioned outside of a traditional studio and into a public working space. I think it has challenged me to think about other ways my practice can continue to be an extension outside of the studio in ways people get to interact and view the process behind the work. Process was a big part of the conversation for the Creative in Residence and I think that I have been really thinking about process and who has access to contemporary artists, it’s not always everyone, so allowing myself as a contemporary artist to be accessible in certain ways.”

What are some projects you are working on now?

“For the past three months, I worked on pieces for an exhibit in Philadelphia, it’s a four person show. One of the pieces of the show I think I considered the full bodily form in a way I hadn’t before, which was fun, and I worked with hair which I don’t get to do often. I didn’t make the hair, I worked with the two stylists. Those works were really exciting to make.

Right now I’m doing a residency in Newport News, and my solo will be in June. I’m working on this 10x11x6 foot structure that will house a 40-foot blanket, so right now I’m working on the quilting part. I’m slowly chipping away at it now. That’s really exciting because I don’t think I’m going to work with any wool, which is both nice and scary because — wool’s my thing! And, in the most humble way possible, I work with wool in a way I have not seen other people do and something about that feels special. I’ve actually been enjoying not working with something I’m so used to working with and like exploring quilting in a different way.”

“Passage, when momma lets my braids flow down my back”
Wool, synthetic braiding hair, plaster, resin 
64 x 15 x 15 inches 
2021

What was the inspiration behind your installation at our Downtown location?

“So, multiple thoughts: I know there was an emphasis on process, but ‘play’ was a reoccurring word, whether in conversations or just the emphasis behind what the Museum is. I wanted to find a way to have something that complemented the idea of play, and I feel like play usually makes us feel good, and it makes us smile, and it makes us laugh, so that was a big part of choosing the facial expressions.

But, because I work figuratively, and because I am a Black woman working figuratively, it was important that the three faces I chose felt inclusive. I remember working on the felted face of the Black girl, and a little Black girl walked by me and asked if she could take a picture with it. I felt special that I made something that, when she comes to play, or anyone who looks like her comes to play, they get to feel like they are a part of this Museum too, and it’s for them also. I feel like when I get a chance to do things like that — not that I’m interested in leaving anyone else out — it’s just important that those that normally feel left out, feel included, and doing it in a way where it felt genuine and purposeful. It’s not so much hitting you on the head with diversity and inclusion, but it’s like, ‘Oh, this is important.'”

Nastassja’s permanent installation of three felt sculptures. Come see it today at our Downtown location!

To see more of Nastassja’s work, visit her website here: NASTASSJA E. SWIFT (nastassjaswift.com)

To learn more about her Philadelphia exhibit, visit the website here: https://www.pentimenti.com/exhibitions#/making-marks/

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