Reflections from Gasher's Art Editor, Sydney Ewerth
At first glance, the allure of Daphne Sweet’s work is seductive, juicy, and fantastical. Sweet draws the viewer in with radical mark-making and whimsical narrative. However, the physical surface reveals deeper symbolism to psychological interpretations of identity through the perceived feminine form. The reoccurring figure in Sweet’s work references not the outdated idea of the sexualized female form, but rather the vulnerability and objectification of bodies categorized as “other.”
The juxtaposition of classical motifs with modern technology in Sweet’s art expresses a sense of preciousness through vanity and insecurity. The empathetic nature of the work creates a space that can be universally recognized: Loneliness in the face of a social atmosphere. The soft neon glow in their work is reminiscent of the bright light of a scrolling cell phone late at night in the dark, utilizing the beauty of images to compare and contrast yourself to the pressures of the world.
The piece, “Ophelia” reflects a relatable desperation to belong. Even in the midst of drowning, the phone still floats. Bringing this historical iconography into a contemporary lens translates to a clouded dream-like landscape. It feels strange to see cherubs and goddesses strapped to a screen to check how many likes they have. This echoes the reality we live in, where selfies in front of paintings get more likes than just paintings. Where performative marketable acts in front of the camera get attention. Sweet seems to be exploiting and celebrating this notion, utilizing the ceramic vessel and figure as a sort of canvas on canvas. The ceramic vessel in “Smoky Sun” and the feminine figure in “Origin of the Milky-Way” both share marks as scars, used as vessels to divulge the narrative made permanent on their skin. The imagery tattooed onto the reoccurring form in Sweet’s work speaks to how society idealizes and reduces the feminine figure as a means to carry tropes of desire and fantasy, giving the figure an unwanted burden on a blank utilitarian backdrop.
Sweet’s work grabs the male gaze by its haunches and flips it on its sexist head. The classics in the art historical canon have praised the female form through a mostly male artists’ lens. By posing the ambiguous figure as feminine, Sweet is giving back power to anyone who identifies with feminine energy, using objectification to expose voyeurism and celebrate sensuality.
The encumbrance placed on “otherness” takes all shapes. The duality of perceived identity contradicts itself. The binary female should be innocent yet iconic and sexual, an exaggerated angelic soft form that will be given a coveted yet repulsive title akin to Medusa if waivered. These unrealistic and unattainable expectations create a battleground on the female form to create the perfect monster. An idealized myth. Sweet’s figures transcend the notion of binary gender and create a space for all to reveal their inner divine feminine goddess energy to overcome personal insecurity and stereotypes. Through playful color, sincere marks, and unapologetically free figures, Sweet’s work provides a space to explore our innermost self and flaunt it.
View Sweet's work here.