Kymia Nawabi stood out at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Swing Space show. Her whimsical, yet somewhat disturbed drawings, paintings, and sculpture have the illustrative quality reminiscent of Tim Burton, giving characters multiple limbs or mix-matched bodies, and overlapping pattern over pattern –a complex world that begs to be dissected. A first generation Iranian-American, which she explains has contributed to her social anxiety disorder, her work addresses the personal struggles of her identity. Her mythology is given the name “The Nincompoop and The Superior Super Senses Stalkers,” as each of her senses is exaggerated and distorted in an episode of anxiety –whether it be in infancy, childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.
Moleskin sketchbooks, which read like storybooks, hang from the ceiling in one corner, while large scale drawings hang in the hallways and the walls of her studio space. Disfigured small-scale sculptures sit patiently on the table, some housed in their own small cupboards, while larger scale sculptures sit free form outside. Each work seems to represent a different episode, or a different manifestation of her feelings as a new character (or doppelganger, as she says). Incredibly detailed and fantastical, she is right in assuming that “the works are initially understood as playful, cute and humorous, but this is merely a polite disguise, just as one uses a smile to hide a despicable body and mind that has gone berserk. Thus, through the lens of my own experience, I direct the viewers’ visions to the complex, deep-level, make-up of who we are, and make us dwell on the abject nature of being human.”
Swing Space is a space grant program that connects artists and arts organizations with vacant commercial space downtown. Studio, rehearsal, office, installation, and exhibition space awards are typically for one to six months and may be accompanied by a project stipend of $300-$3,000, when funds are available. Housed in an expansive upper-level office floor in a skyscraper in the Financial District, the 10th floor of 77 Water Street is the summer home of the Swing Space visual artist studios. Twenty former bankers’ offices lining the nearly 20,000 square foot floor offers selected artists space to complete proposed projects in the visual arts. With sweeping views of the East River, New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and the office buildings of the Insurance District, 77 Water Street serves the Swing Space program’s goal to place artists in uncommon and unique environments in Lower Manhattan.