– Pierre Joris
After relocating from Portland, Oregon, to the Mojave Desert in 2018, Schwegler quickly developed a connection to the numerous and varied wild animals of an alien, difficult landscape: black ravens, cactus wrens, cottontail rabbits, coyote, green Mojave rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, great horned owls, jack rabbits, kangaroo rats, lizards, owls, pigeons, quail, roadrunners, squirrels. The works on view in Zoonosis address her relationship with creatures living and dying on her two acre compound. (Zoonosis is the process by which infectious diseases are passed from animals to humans through vectors that carry pathogens. Notable zoonotic diseases include anthrax, cat scratch fever, dengue fever, human immunodeficiency virus, malaria, and swine flu.)
Having left an open pail of water in her studio on a summer evening, Schwegler returned in the morning to discover a thirsty squirrel drowned at its bottom. Her pet cats routinely arrive in the kitchen bearing the amputated tails of lizards or the entrails of unidentifiable xerocole. Until Schwegler erected an elaborate outdoor fencing system, she was continuously fearful that her cats would be carried off by a remorseless raptor. Aggressive pit vipers – carrying the most potent venom in North America – are regular visitors and necessitate constant vigilance of this terrible threat.
Though there is little chance of contracting a zoonotic illness from her desert neighbors, the artist has testified to a kind of emotional zoonosis through these encounters. Schwegler seeks to synthesize her own experience with the classical paradox that we are both a part of and apart from nature: killing an animal is when we become most animal; witnessing the death of an animal is when we become most human. The protagonists of the glass bestiary on view in this exhibition include the incarnation of ironic cuteness: the bunny. Disassembled from plastic toys, sculpted, rearranged, and cast in mismatched hues, Schwegler’s deranged totems form an animal chorus of the dead.