Ilona Szwarc


"I am a woman and I feast on memory."
Ilona Szwarc is dissecting the process of becoming: how an individual assimilates and makes oneself imperceptible in society while engaging a series of internal and external transformations.

Each part of the triptych, consisting of 23 sequential portraits, takes the form of stage makeup tutorials. By employing look-alikes, women who share her general appearance, the artist is placing herself at once as the subject and the object in the photographs. In this step-by-step process she is manipulating her own image through a proxy: her American doppelganger.

These carefully staged photographs confuse the relationship between a portrait or a self-portrait. Szwarc is directing a compelling narrative, in which through cinematic closeups of her painting and drawing on the model’s face, she first creates an uncanny portrait of an aged woman, then through abstract and colorful mark-making she transforms her into a large woman. The series culminates with an androgynous, grotesque, saintly mask, a contemporary Vera Icon of her doppelganger.

Ilona Szwarc (American and Polish) is a photographer based in Los Angeles, California.

Szwarc received an MFA in Photography from Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and a BFA from School of Visual Arts in New York City. She has had solo exhibitions at Foley Gallery in New York City, Claude Samuel in Paris, France, Amerika Haus in Munich, Germany, Leica Gallery in Warsaw, Poland and Maison de la Photographie in Lille, France. Her work has been shown in group shows internationally and most recently at Regen Projects in Los Angeles, Danziger Gallery in New York and at the International Festival for Photography and Fashion in Hyeres, France.

Szwarc has been awarded Richard Benson Prize for Excellence in Photography (2015), Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture (2014), World Press Photo (2013) and most recently chosen as FOAM Talent.