In popular culture the seven deadly sins represent a set of do-nots, many of which excite us because they are considered taboo and/or illicit. Taken out of their religious context the seven deadly sins represent guidelines for social behavior in the West. We strive to avoid being overly lustful, slothful, greedy, glutinous, wrathful, envious and prideful because of the many repercussions of behaving in these ways. We recognize that these acts are prohibitive in terms of forming lasting social bonds and keeping our minds and bodies healthy. Because of the taboo nature of many of the sins it would seem that we - quite naturally as it turns out - are prone to passing judgment upon those people who engage in them.
According to neuroscientist David Eagleman, judgment is hard wired into our brains; it’s what holds society together making social taboos strong enough to keep most of us in line. Yet in the context of this show we encounter empathy rather than judgment. Swenholt’s rendering of her figures is clearly sensitive, as evidenced by small details in the subject’s faces balanced with the broadly expressed and exaggerated limbs. Each sculpture acts as a window into a specific sin, but such care has been taken that it appears as if their creator mourns over these figures’ inability to break free. It is through this gentle touch that we are invited to see a different side of sin.
These sculptures are all dynamic, actively involved in the commission of their particular sin. Many of the sculptures are precariously balanced, adding to the dynamic quality of each and serving to heighten the metaphor behind the works. None of the figures meet our gaze; they seem trapped in a world of their own, completely absorbed by their sin. “Narcissus” gazes at his reflection in an unseen pond, whilst his head begins the transformation into narcissus blossom. We have caught the “Gossip Tree” in the midst of telling tales and Adam trying to create himself. “The Gambler” waits to see if his fortune will be won or lost with the casual toss of the dice. Even the ballerina representing purity, in “Lust: Other Gods” is held back by the figures surrounding her.
The one sculpture that stands out is the “Lamb of God,” placed in the central position on the back wall of the gallery, as profound in its suffering as any of the other sculptures. The artist offers the crucifixion to viewers to let them know that they are not alone in their suffering, proffering hope. Swenholt’s representation of a crucified lamb is possibly more jarring than her sinners. We are not used to seeing a lamb, which most of us associate with innocence, slaughtered on the cross in the place of a sedate figure of Christ.
Curator, Dadian Gallery