Gloria C Swain is a Toronto-based multi-disciplinary artist, curator and writer, whose art practice includes abstract paintings, performance, social justice and photography.
The artist – whose work centres around storytelling and advocating for anti-Black racism, violence against women and Trans people, Black mental health, and her own experience with ageism in the art world – is one of Artscape’s original live-work tenants.
Art began as a simple form of self-expression for Gloria, as well as a coping mechanism in dealing with the world around her. Textured and layered abstract paintings became the vessel for challenging narratives – using a brush and paint as an emotional outlet for ongoing colonial violence, and to eradicate all forms of oppression.
At age sixty, she returned to university. By age sixty-two, she had received a master’s degree. In 2019, age 63, she debuted her very first solo abstract geometric exhibition.
Gloria’s work can be seen all over Toronto – from exhibits solely focused on Black Heritage, to high traffic areas like Union Station, to hand-held art books. Read on to learn more about her work and why you should check it out ASAP.
Artwork at Union Station: “I am Still here: Black Joy is Resistance”
On until May 31, 2023.
“I Am Still Here, is reflective of my lived experience as an older Black woman artist who have often felt neglected and not included in many of Toronto’s art spaces. There aren’t a lot of spaces for older Black women artists and many spaces lack representation which is challenging for artists who look like me.
Black Joy is the resistance – the resilience that we’ve experienced and the coming together that I see in the Black Community. Although many issues persist, this continued resilience is manifesting in a shift in the new generation. The strength of the youth today is Black Joy.
The title of my installation, ‘Black Hair’, is unique. It is a mixed-media triptych painting using acrylic paint, spray paint and soil on canvas boards to illuminate the connection between Black hair and Black history. Using soil for the hair symbolizes the connection to the land where our ancestors were stolen and the land they were forced to labour for free and lose their lives fighting for freedom and against racism and inequality.
Black hair connects us to our history, culture, identities, and our stories. Bias against Black hair continues to exist. Natural hair is a symbol of empowerment, resistance, social justice activism, and Black joy.”
Gloria adds that she feels fortunate to be showing along side MakeRoom Inc with Trevor Twells and Maryam Amri.
Gloria’s Art Book: “Between Art and Life”
Available on Amazon today.
Art Book: Between Art and Life is funded through Canada Council for the Arts, documenting Gloria’s work and sharing it with a wider audience – ensuring that when it is eventually archived, it doesn’t one day disappear.
“Using art as a vehicle to empower other older Black women artists, I work in painting, photography, film, installation, and performance. My art reflects a unique technique of layered and textured abstract and geometric compositions using lines, shapes, and colours. My non-figurative paintings address issues of colonialism, police brutality, inequality, racism, the historical impact [intergenerational trauma] of enslavement on Black mental health, and stereotypes about Black women and aging.”
Black History Exhibits
1. TALES Exhibition: The vitality of Afro Canadian Art
Location: The Halls of the Senate of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, with the Senate’s African Canadian Group, in collaboration with Intercultural Mosaic & the African-Canadian Cultural Centre
Curator: Allison Roberts, Montreal
Closing: February 28, 2023
2. Diasporas: Threads Connecting Our Origins gives an understanding of what it means to walk through the world racialized as Black people in Canada.
Location: Kitchener/Waterloo at The Museum
Closing: July 4, 2023
3. COVID Exhibition
Location: City of Toronto Museum & Heritage Services
Location: Fork York National Historic Site
Curator: Raven Spiratos
Closing: forthcoming Spring 2023