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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Marc Swanson Draws Comfort From Rural Cemeteries and ’80s Club Music

4. The AIDS Memorial on Instagram This feed is so simple and personal, but just like the AIDS quilt, also so generous and expansive. Someone who wants to pay tribute to a loved one will submit pictures and words to the creator of the account, which are then shared to all who follow. You are free to memorialize in the way you see fit. Short or long, deeply personal, a simple eulogy or a funny story.

5. Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture I attended this residency in the summer of 2000. I did not have art education or a degree. I had shown my work for a few years but didn’t really trust that I was a “real” artist. Skowhegan changed all that. I was so intimidated, but the school has a way of removing the competitive nature of the art world. It’s just 65 artists who have been given the gift of no trappings of day-to-day life. Everyone eats together and you don’t leave campus. Over time you become a family of sorts.

6. Rural cemeteries I have always found solace in cemeteries. I grew up in New Hampshire, where there are really old graveyards, and I just loved the oldest headstones with the winged skulls and weeping willow. I loved the images as symbols for life, death, grief. They resonated with me before I knew what they meant.

7. Larry Levan on YouTube Listening to this set — recorded at Paradise Garage on Sept. 26, 1987, one of the New York club’s final nights — always lifts me up, especially while working in the studio. Larry Levan was an incredible DJ. Mixing is an art; a DJ can create a kind of church, a spiritual space. This recording always make me move and ups my focus, while bringing me back to the ’80s nightclubs of my youth. Clubs then were huge, and the most diverse places I have been to, up to this day. It was a kind of utopia based on dancing.

8. Jack Ferver Jack is a force. An incredible performer whose work uses high camp. It then unravels to reveal the vulnerability that the camp was supposed to convey and protect at the same time. Fifteen years ago I saw a performance they did called “Meat” at Dixon Place where Jack played the astronaut Lisa Nowak. The piece should not have worked. It was all over the place, but it held together with a tension that was exciting to witness. I had Jack to my studio, and we started working together soon after that.

9. Upstate New York My partner, Joe Mama-Nitzberg, who also happens to be a fantastic artist, and I moved to Catskill Village from New York City close to a decade ago. We were financially, spiritually, and artistically drained. There is a generosity and spirit here I think that many can’t afford to have in the city currently. Time, space and access to nature are what I need these days. It’s a different experience from when I was younger.

10. Elizabeth Taylor autographed photo Need I say more? This is one of my most treasured possessions. I love Liz Taylor. But I also love that every time I look at the photo, I think of the French Market Place, a gay-owned, -operated and -patronized restaurant and indoor mall in West Hollywood. Inside the mall was a Hollywood memorabilia store called “Dorothy’s Surrender,” where I bought the photo. Not only do I think she was an incredible actress, but I just love that she made movies where she was basically unhinged in the best of ways. And, very importantly, she went above and beyond in her support of people living with AIDS.

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