Short Bio:

Sylvia de Swaan is a Romanian born visual artist/photographer who has lived and worked in Mexico, Europe and the United States. She moved from New Orleans to Central New York in the late seventies and has had a multitude of involvements in the region and beyond,  – among them as an internationally exhibited practicing artist; founding director of Sculpture Space, Inc.; independent curator; advocate for the arts; visiting faculty in the art department at Hamilton College and Pratt Institute; and recipient of grants, fellowships and prizes from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Aaron Siskind Foundation, ArtsLink, Light Work, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Austrian Ministry of Culture, Anderson Ranch Art Center, Society for Photographic Education, and Paris Photo, among others.

Extended Version:

Sylvia de Swaan is a Romanian born fine art and documentary photographer who has lived and worked in Mexico, Europe and several parts of the United States. In the mid 1970's, she moved to a hamlet in Central New York with her second husband and son, where they bought a Greek revival crumbling mansion heated with wood and coal. When her marriage ended, she was invited to be the Director of Sculpture Space, a fledgling studio program for located in Utica, NY, which during her ternure earned an international reputation, a NYS Governors' Art award, and a MacArthur Award for its uniqueness. Sylvia has also been involved in the arts as an educator, curator, visual arts panelist and arts consultant.

In her personal work,Sylvia de Swaan engages in long-term self assigned projects that explore themes of transience, loss, individual and collective memory and identity, the state of the world and the neighborhood where she lives. Her longest running body of work, titled "Return" was begun in early 1990 with a series of train journeys through post communist Eastern Europe to retrace routes her family traversed as stateless refugees at the end of the Second World War. She stretches the boundaries of documentary photography by incorporating the personal, the subjective, the bygone and the invisible.

" does one photograph an absence?" the artist and photographer asked herself, when she set out on the first of these nebulous journeys. 

'Return' has been presented in numerous venues, including the Munson-Williams-Proctor, Institute, Utica, NY; Picker Gallery, Colgate University; Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE; CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Cankarjev Dom. Ljubljana, SL; PhotoCinema, Format Photography Festival, Derby, UK; In Transition, Russia 2008, and National Center for Contemporary Art, Yekaterinburg, Russia, among others. It has also been presented through publications and slides lectures at College and university settings.

Sylvia de Swaan has received grants, fellowships and residencies, including from:  The Washington Project for the Arts, Art Matters, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Aaron Siskind Foundation, CEC/ArtsLink (travel grants) (X3), Light Work, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art; Austrian Ministry of Culture, Anderson Ranch Art Center, The New York Foundation for the Arts (X 4) and others.