A great preparator should be a great artist as well.
The building is closed.
A dead silence reigns in the deserted rooms.
Now, the only things that are occupying the space are the arts. Paintings hang quietly on the walls.
Suddenly, a loud, annoying sound echoes through the air. At the same time, a wall in a back room opens vertically with a loud clunk sound. It is not a wall; it is an elevator door. Inside the elevator, a huge A-frame painting cart sits in the middle with several artworks on it. On the right stands a 50-years-old white woman with curly auburn hair. Her intent looks tell us how much she cares about arts and how much she loves arts. She stands there as if she is a guard of the arts.
Charly Swing is a chief preparator at Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon. Her job, she says, is to handle the arts properly and to let the visitors have an excellent experience.
According to Swing, the basic part of Swing’s job as a preparator is to be invisible. She says that preparators are responsible before and after the exhibition. It’s curators’ job to be in front of visitors and explain about the arts; preparators are hidden backstage.
“If we did something poorly, people will notice our work. If we do our job well, they notice the art.” That is Swing’s policy as a preparator.
“It’s all done well enough that when the visitors come, what they are seeing is the art,” Swing says.
Swing compares her job as a preparator to a mount making. Mounts are the metal parts that support the arts on the displays. She says that the mounts have to do their job without distracting people from the art.
“If the mount is made well, people don’t see the mount, they see the art,” Swing says.
Mount equals preparatory. That is the foundation of her philosophy.
After graduated from Illinois State University with Bachelor of Arts degree on Sculpture and Drawing, Swing has experienced various kinds of jobs before she came to Eugene, Ore. She did a construction job in Houston, Texas, internal design studio work at Santa Fe, N.M., and built out interiors for the ships in Long Beach, Calif. She also earned a teaching degree on Waldorf education in Pasadena and was a Waldorf teacher for eight years. All her creative jobs, including preparator, have been very enjoyable for Swing, she says.
Swing built her art studio in the corner of her home garage and is constantly creating artworks, especially sculptures.
She learned a lot about sculpturing in her college. However, she says that what she was taught in school was mostly conceptual, abstract or contemporary types of works, which she was not that interested in. Swing was more attracted to a human body.
Her first figure sculpture was an 11 height bronze piece called Strength. Swing created an imaginative female figure of a cancer survivor. Despite the signs of hardships on the body that she experienced through cancer, the sculpture’s strong posture and impressive eyes express its braveness and hope in future. Above all, she is beautiful.
Swing thinks that the idea has come from her cousin and a nephew, who also suffered from cancer.
“Somehow, I thought like she was going to speak for them,” Swing says.
Strength won the Best of Show at 2008 Mayor’s Art Show in Eugene.
Most of the figures that she sculpts do not have a model. First, she cannot afford one. Second, what she really expresses in the figure form is the spiritual essence of a person, not about a particular person. It is when she makes an eye contact with a figure that she knows that a person is there.
Throughout her art related career, Swing has experienced a struggle of being a woman.
When she first started working at the construction place, Swing had a hard time finding things to do. Her boss and her coworkers did not give her jobs because they did not believe that females could actually build things. The only thing she was allowed to do was to hold a ladder for her boss and hand him a hammer. So one day, when the boss was gone to do something for a while, she jumped on the ladder and did the job. It was when the boss came back and saw her work that he finally trusted her ability.
When she first worked as a preparator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, she was the only female preparator. Again, Swing was not treated the same way as the male preparators.
“I think, at that time, maybe I got hired because I had all the credentials and because I was a woman,” Swing says.
She thinks that her hiring was a part of them proving that the museum is actually “diverse.”
Fortunately, the time has changed. Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art has a lot of female workers.
Currently, she is working on a public art piece on the southeast corner of 13th and Alder, which is done by a partnership between the City of Eugene’s Public Art Program, UO Duckstore and Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. With a local bronze artist, Steve Reinmuth, Swing is now in a process of brainstorming the idea.
Swing wants to make her living as an artist someday. She always considers herself as an artist first.
“I just love human form, especially the female,” Swing says. “There’s so much about man’s perspectives of women, so I’m interested in the women’s perspective of women, telling our own stories instead of somebody else telling our stories.”
Charly Swing, a female artist expressing the women, is already there.