In NYC, artist Swoon transforms a box truck into a stage for storytelling

In NYC, artist Swoon transforms a box truck into a stage for storytelling
Swoon's "The House Our Familes Built." Photo: Marshall LaCount/Swoon Studio.

The next time you see a box truck rumbling down the streets of New York City, pause to consider: Is there a sculpture in there?

Now in its third weekend of traveling performances (though the second was postponed), the public art piece “The House Our Families Built” transforms a 14-foot box truck into an intimate sculpture that cascades out from the vehicle’s folding sides. The project was created by Caledonia Curry, the artist known as Swoon, and is one of three works commissioned by the PBS storytelling initiative American Portrait, which crowdsources personal narratives from across the country in partnership with RadicalMedia.

Swoon with her public art project "The House Our Familes Built." Photo: Eric Fernandez/RadicalMedia.
Swoon with her public art project “The House Our Familes Built.” Photo: Eric Fernandez/RadicalMedia.

Conceived in a diorama-style, Swoon’s sculpture centers domestic scenes culled from the American Portrait archives and brings them to life with intricate cutaways, paintings and actors. The piece kicked off its tour through New York City Jan. 30 at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1, just before a snowstorm blanketed the streets. The Prospect Park pop-up, scheduled for Feb. 6 and 7, did not escape inclement weather and was delayed, with a new date yet to be announced. The truck will travel next to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens Feb. 13 and 14, then Union Square, North Plaza, Feb. 21.

“The sculpture is built around the visual theme of home as a site for so much that we inherit, from our comforts and joys and life serving rituals, to our dysfunctional patterns,” Swoon said of her work, which was co-directed by Jeff Stark and Irene Lazaridis. “Home is the place where all of these things intersect and entangle, and so I also see it as an archetypal symbol to return to if we wish to spend some time disentangling the threads of our inherited legacies.”

Swoon's "The House Our Familes Built." Photo: Sarah St. Amand/Swoon Studio.
An in-progress shot of Swoon’s “The House Our Familes Built.” Photo: Sarah St. Amand/Swoon Studio.
Swoon's "The House Our Familes Built." Photo: Marshall LaCount/Swoon Studio.
Swoon’s “The House Our Familes Built.” Photo: Marshall LaCount/Swoon Studio.

Those who wish to visit the work can expect two different experiences depending on when they arrive. The first phase is presented as an installation filled with painted portraits, backdropped by the voices of those who contributed to the American Portrait storytelling initiative. The second portion features 15-minute performances from actors, staged every 30 minutes.

“I hope that people find a sense of wonder and joy in the architecture, the portraits, the truck as it transforms into a sculpture, and the performers as they amplify the stories of others,” Swoon said. “I also hope that the vulnerable sharing contained within the performances and the portraits encourage people to connect with places of deep reflection inside themselves.

Rick Lowe, who is currently presenting a work in Tulsa, Okla., through May 15, and Carlos Ramierz, whose installation “Altar to a Dream” is on view through Feb. 14 in Dallas, Texas, round out the artists participating in the American Portrait project.

Learn more about the public art installations on the American Portrait website.

Top Image: Swoon's "The House Our Familes Built." Photo: Marshall LaCount/Swoon Studio.