Sara Morris Swetcharnik

Painter's Progress

Sara Morris Swetcharnik, February 25, 1991

My husband, William Swetcharnik, is a painter. Although throughout most of his career he has been involved with two-dimensional canvases he is now working on a large, long term installation project, combining both two and three-dimensional works of art in an architectural setting. There are several reasons his new work has become more three-dimensional and architectural.

To begin with, William had become increasingly involved in the physical context of his work: that is how the work related to its frame and other surroundings. He began to design his frames and eventually he made the frame part of the painting, extending the painting right into the frame. In part, this came out of his interest in medieval retables and altarpieces, where paintings were often combined with other painting, sculpture, and various architectural formats. On a larger scale, he also became interested in interior setting (such as churches) which combine different sculpture, painting, and architecture. He became especially interested in primitive examples of early medieval church interiors in Spain.

At the same time, William and I had also begun to collaborate with an architect on a large project of renovating our home and studio, which stimulated his thinking in terms of architecture and space. He became fascinated by architecture in general and especially how people are psychologically and aesthetically affected by its spaces. Examples of contemporary architecture two movements of particular interest to him are the twentieth century Bauhaus movement, which tended to express structural elements though the exterior of the building, and the open flow-though designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. In all these cases, the architects also had a profound commitment to the design elements in the environment, including the integration of interior furnishings.

Finally, among modern influences, there is the example of "installation art," which began early in the century but became widespread during the "earthworks" movement of the Seventies, and the interior environments of artists such as Red Grooms and Vladimir Kabukov. This influence was less that of any particular artist than the general tendency for artists once again to look at their works in the context of the environment which they create.

These influences have all contributed to William's artistic progression from making individual paintings to a complex ensemble of work combining painting, sculpture, and architecture, so as to create an entire aesthetic environment.