As a city that’s been through its share of struggles and changes, Detroit is the ideal location for a new work about making a transition by artist Caledonia Curry, also known as Swoon. The Light After is a 2,500 square foot immersive installation at Detroit’s Library Street Collective featuring a myriad of block prints, paper cut-outs, and mylar pieces festooned throughout the space.
As Curry describes in the project’s press release, the inspiration for The Light After came to her in a dream: “When my mother passed away in 2013, I was asleep at the time. I awoke inside a dream to see falling snow. The snow started to open up into blossoms of light as it passed through my body, and it carried with it my mother's voice. I woke up knowing that my mother had passed away, but I felt a little crazy for believing such a thing possible. My sister called shortly after to confirm that my mom had indeed passed. In the years following this intensely strange and profound experience, I discovered through research that it was a rare but extant phenomenon called the ‘empathetic death experience.’”
The Light After invites viewers to move through an installation that echoes the typical ‘empathetic death experience’ that many other people besides Curry have reported. As Curry tells The Creators Project, “I got more and more interested in other people’s accounts; looking at hundreds and hundreds of personal accounts. [...] Usually the experience is: there’s a tunnel and then a barrier that turns them away from entering a beautiful space.” Curry’s depiction of these experiences features paper cut-outs she calls “snow blossoms,” which hang throughout a narrower space in the Library Street Collective location, then the installation opens to a space where colorful block prints adorn brightly painted walls.
The Light After is just one of multiple projects that Curry is simultaneously installing and exhibiting in gallery, museum, and public spaces throughout Detroit. As Library Street Collective director Anthony Curis tells The Creators Project, “We recently partnered with the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of the most prestigious arts institutions in the country, to install one of Callie's massive site-specific sculptural works, titled Thalassa, in the museum’s main entrance. As part of that project, Callie gave an artist lecture at the DIA and spoke intimately about her work as a tool for personal recovery and healing. Artists and public art are very quickly becoming that for Detroit.”
Curry’s work ultimately turns her personal experience into something that an entire community can be a part of; making connections and helping people move on, whether it’s her mother, or the people of Detroit. As Curis points out, “We always want to push the expectations of our community and our artists, and Swoon's appeal in terms of public, private and humanitarian work meant we could collaborate with so many different groups as we planned her exhibition with us— from the DIA to local artists Callie has hired to help her install, to her mural that will be painted in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood.”