Swoon and Monica Canilao "Witch-Wife"


   "Caledonia Curry — better known as Swoon — and Monica Canilao, the artists in the current show, call their joint project “Witch-Wife.” The phrase is an antiquated name for a witch. More provocatively, it is the title of a short poem, published in 1917, by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Written in the melancholy years just before American entry into World War I, the poem tells of a beautiful and beguiling, yet untamable and unattainable, woman. (Unattainable, at least, to men — the poem has been read as a lesbian anthem.)
   The exhibition touches on many other themes: motherhood, time, poverty, myth. Far from any linear narrative, however, it tumbles them together with the illogic of a dream. That’s not a bad thing: The best dreams are full of surprise twists and mysterious turns, which can be frightful, illuminating or amusing (often all of these). Half the gallery is a double-height space that Swoon and Canilao have packed with precariously towering sculptural works, stitched and tacked together from antique fabrics and remnant objects, building to immense forms that might be female giants in Victorian dress. This is where the exhibition really takes off, launching us into a dark landscape of free association and vaguely cinematic fantasy. 
  The challenge of authentically describing dreams or evincing the dream state has frustrated the most skillful of artists throughout history. Manifestations, perhaps, of the collective unconscious, dreams are, at the same time, unique to the dreamer. For several years Swoon has managed a project she calls “Dream Reliquary,” a website where hundreds of contributors have left descriptions of their dreams. By incorporating that bank of fantasy into an extraordinary environment of their own imagination, the artists have expanded their collaboration. The witch-wives need only us, the final element, to complete their spell."  
 - Charles Desmarais for SF Gate