Blue rider press, 2012
As a teenager, Shapton trained for the Olympic swimming trials; now an artist, she is still drawn inexorably to swimming, in pools and on beaches across the world. What do you with an all-absorbing activity once it's past its relevance, and yet you can't quite give it up? Is it possible to find a new purpose for its rigors and focus?
Swimming Studies is a meditative work that explores what it is like to move from a world of competition and discipline to one of recreation and introspection. Giving a fascinating glimpse into the private realms of swimming, and drawing, Shapton tells an intimate story of suburban adolescence, family ties, and the solitary underwater moments that now ground her artistic habits.
“Swimming Studies sets out, through a fusion of words and pictures, to capture a bittersweet part of the writer’s past as completely as a scent trapped in a bottle. The book is beautiful as both a story and an object. It’s about being very, very good at something, when you want to be great. I was moved by it in ways both expected and unexpected.” - John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
“If there is a more beautifully observed examination of the weightlessness, silence, rigor, and delight of what it means to swim, I’ve never read it. Leanne Shapton is one of the most broadly creative and gifted people at work today; a true artist, both visual and verbal. There seems to be nothing she cannot write or paint about: adolescence, Canada, yearning, dawn—even cake, for heaven’s sake!—with a precision both surgical and poetic. The joys of Swimming Studies are in being in the care of someone of a prodigious and protean mind. My talent crush is official and deep.” - David Rakoff, author of Half-Empty
“I’m so happy this book exists. Swimming Studies expresses what it’s like to be haunted by the person one used to be, and the search for how that person exists in the present. Leanne Shapton writes with such curiosity, ruefulness, intelligence, and grace. Here we see how the discipline of being an athlete can condition one’s ways of making art, and how the patience necessary to make art teaches other types of patience. Like the patience required to be a spouse and to love a person always. This book is a rare treat for anyone who cares about any of these things.” - Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be?