Artist Swoon transformed a box truck into a diorama-style outdoor sculpture that will travel around NYC

February 3, 2021

Photo: Marshall LaCount/Swoon Studio

A roving public art installation that explores the American experience has hit the streets of New York City. As part of the “American Portrait” initiative from PBS, Brooklyn-based artist Caledonia Curry, also known as Swoon, has designed a diorama-inspired sculpture on top of a 14-foot box truck. The installation, titled The House Our Families Built, features paintings and cutouts portraying domestic life. The sculpture debuted at Brooklyn Bridge Park last weekend and will travel to Prospect Park on February 6-7, Flushing Meadows Corona Park on February 13-14, and Union Square on February 21.

The House Our Families Built installation features intricate cutouts, paintings, and performance to prompt viewers to consider the legacy of our ancestors and the way in which we discuss them. Curry and collaborator Jeff Stark selected stories and scenes found in the PBS American Portrait archives.

The artists shaped the stories into a 15-minute live performance that moves through emotions from “humor to fear, tenderness to confrontation, encouraging people to ask where they’ve come from and what they can leave behind.” When there’s not a live performance, a recording of the audio, which includes thoughts from user-generated narratives in the American Portrait database, will be played.

Photo: Caledonia Curry/Swoon Studio

The House Our Families Built will create moments of public reflection about what legacies we carry forward into this new future we are building, and what legacies we make a conscious choice to leave behind,” Curry said. “My collaborators have distilled hundreds of stories into a glimpse of American life that begins at the dinner table and travels deep inside who we are, via the things we struggle to overcome. The fantastical truck-turned-sculpture is there to draw us in, to echo the many shapes that home takes. The stories that filter through it are what connect and hold us.”

Swoon’s large-scale work is one of three chosen by PBS and RadicalMedia for the initiative, which includes mobile projects in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Dallas, Texas. The public art program aims to “amplify personal narratives and tell stories that aim to create community, empathy and understanding,” according to a press release.

Installations, which include The G.A.P. Van by Rick Lowe and Greenwood Art Project and Altar to a Dream by Carlos Rameriez, are displayed on vehicles, representing American stories in motion. Because the installation is outdoors, this allows for visitors to enjoy them while observing coronavirus safety protocols and social distancing.

Learn more about The House Our Families Built and how to view the installation here.


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