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Conversation: Gio Swaby—Love Letters



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Another Side to Me Second Chapter 5, 2021.

Gio Swaby. Courtesy of Joe Andrew, Anne Slaughter Andrew, and Ian Rubinstein © Gio Swaby

Gio Swaby’s embroidered portraits are anchored in the connections she forges with her subjects: each piece begins with a photo shoot in which her sitters are captured in moments of self-awareness and empowerment. In her textile interpretations of the photographs, she foregrounds hair, clothing, and jewelry, highlighting and celebrating personal style as an unapologetic form of self-definition and self-expression.

Join the artist for a conversation with Melinda Watt, chair and curator of textiles, textile conservator Isaac Facio, and assistant director of interpretation, Loren Wright. Together they will discuss Gio Swaby: Fresh Up, and the significance of care in mounting an exhibition that is, at heart, a love letter to black women.

About the Speakers

Gioswaby Headshot

Gio Swaby is a Bahamian interdisciplinary visual artist who is known for textile portraits that explore and celebrate Blackness. With a multimedia practice that encompasses textiles, installations, collages, performance and video, Swaby has exhibited in several galleries and museums including Claire Oliver Gallery in New York City, Die Textile in Schmallenberg Germany, and The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. Swaby holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Art, Media and Design from Ontario College of Art & Design. She currently lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Photograph of chair and curator Melinda Watt.

Melinda Watt, Chair and Christa C. Mayer Thurman Curator of Textiles is co-curator of Gio Swaby: Fresh Up with Katherine Pill of the MFA St. Petersburg (FL). Watt has led the Textiles department at the Art Institute since 2018. Her previous exhibitions include Fabricating Fashion, Morris and Company: The Business of Beauty, and Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800 (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Ifacio Headshot

Isaac Facio focuses on the care, preservation, and exhibition of objects as associate conservator for textiles at the Art Institute of Chicago. He maintains a research-based practice in art and science with an emphasis on technology and specialty in 3D woven structures, and is senior lecturer in Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Originally from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Isaac received training in textiles, textiles conservation, studio art, material science and technology across Chicago, Illinois, Manchester, England, and Paris, France. He was a recent arts resident at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and serves as president of the Board of Directors of the Textile Society of America.


Loren Wright is an Assistant Director in Interpretation at the Art Institute. She works with curators and other staff across the museum to tell more inclusive and accessible stories about art. Loren received her Master’s in Museum and Exhibition Studies from the University of Illinois Chicago. 

Please note that this is an in-person event that takes place at the museum.

In accordance with state and City of Chicago guidelines, visitors to the museum are no longer required to wear masks or provide proof of vaccination. Anyone who would like to continue to wear a mask is welcome to do so. Learn more about our visiting policies and what to expect.

If you have any questions about programming, please reach out to

Closed captioning will be available for this program. For questions related to accessibility accommodations, please email


Major funding for Gio Swaby: Fresh Up is provided by Nicholas Antoine and Wanji and Clive Walcott.

Additional funding is provided by The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.

Corporate Sponsor

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