Hilary Swingle is an American figurative realist oil painter working in the indirect painting method. Her art has been exhibited in museum and gallery shows across the United States. She was recently awarded Juror’s Choice in the 2020 Utah Women Artists Exhibition and recognized with an honorable mention in the 2021 Blue Review Art Prize.
“Man is imperfect.” This was a sentiment commonly expressed in my childhood home. Therefore, if perfection is unattainable, contentment necessitates finding the beauty within our imperfections. My paintings highlight the unease created when our expectations and our reality bifurcate but I also invite the viewer to find serenity within this disunion. My portraits are autobiographical and my current work explores one of my own imperfections, my struggle with social anxiety.
When was the first time you felt like you were an artist?
About four years ago there was a palpable shift; I felt like I had finally honed my painting skills enough that I could visually articulate my ideas. It was a magical meld of expression and execution.
What would you say is the underlying thread that connects your work?
Much of my work is an autobiographical exploration of social constructs and a personal acceptance or rejection of those structures. I am a woman and I grew up in a strict religious household within a conservative community and this informs many of the social constructs I explore. Underlying themes of my work include patriarchal ideals, beauty standards, autonomy, childhood, mental health, and definitions of morality.
What is the most satisfying part of your practice?
Every part of my practice has its own meditative element, from planning photo shoots to prepping panels. But the most satisfying part for me is when I finally get at least a first layer of paint covering the entire panel. When the painting is at this point it means I’ve usually solved any problems and I can more easily get into a flow-state and coast through the rest of the painting. This moment feels like I’ve rolled the boulder to the top of the hill and I now have enough momentum to finish the painting in the manner I want.
Tell us about a turning point in your artistic journey and/or career.
I wish I could point to one moment and say “this is when I made it as an artist” but truthfully, this journey has ebbed and flowed. There are small successes and seemingly big failures all the time. This is why I think it’s so important to find your art buddies. They will keep you motivated, celebrate with you in your wins, and help you keep your losses in perspective.
If you could show your work anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I absolutely have a few places in mind but I’m too superstitious to commit them to paper. I’m not religious but I will say the two places I feel the most spiritual are in the middle of nature and in a museum. Both settings are humbling in that you are made aware of something so much larger than yourself but you are also inextricably linked to what’s around you. I also love the idea that art can become democratized in a public collection. It belongs to everyone and no one. To be accepted into a collection like that would certainly be a dream come true.