Sydnei Smith Jordan is a self-made, independent and a learned artist. Her art pieces are now a part of the permanent collection with the Harriet Tubman Museum of Cape May. She chose to assert the majority of her attention to fine art and illustration since 1995. She has worked for both commercial and private venues nationally and internationally. Educated in fine art at College of Design, Art and Architecture at Santa Monica College under the mentorship of Ronn Davis; she also studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design. Her works have been collected by Park Overall, Whoopi Goldberg, Patti La Belle, Forrest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, Damien Escobar and Sylvester Stallone. Sydnei’s artworks give a sense of her deep understanding of what art really is. She has built a meaning to it through different tasks she has taken up at every step of her life as a challenge, learnt from it and applied to her art. Her art is not restricted to just canvas and paints. As I talked to her during the interview, I was over whelmed the way she has worked so hard in every given field which ultimately related to “Art”, which she calls as her love and shares how important is art for her. I am sure one might discover true meaning of art by the end of it.
Sydnei Smith Jordan you have come a long way, since the time you decided to assert your majority of attention to fine art and illustration around twenty-five years ago, and much before that you were already working as a desktop publisher. No doubt your consistent efforts brings you where you are today. How has been your past journey and it’s major driving forces so far?
My past experiences have gotten me this far by never giving up. I have taken experience from each and everything that has come my way. I have used them to launch me forward in my craft. In medical illustrations I learnt to be detailed. I used that further in typography, desktop publishing, fine art and in my other illustrations. While doing restoring and painting vehicles I learnt endurance and patience. Basically, each experience was a stepping stone to assist me with the next. Now, I am able to apply all of those things to nurture my art.
Talking about your most fascinating collections, your ‘signature surfboards and skateboards’, how did you come up with the idea of skateboards while connecting them with your art and illustration at the same time?
Skateboard and apparel art was something that I did in the early 2000s in California. Customizing was a very large part of life there. Moving to the East Coast was like stepping backwards in time. When I relocated to Cape May, it seemed that I would hit a career snag in such a small place. My art is so different that I couldn’t gain the attention necessary to sell it. I was still being represented in Chelsea, so I decided to bring back skateboard decks since surfboarding and skateboarding are popular. To gain the attention of both the youth and adult crowds, I put work on either side of the deck so that it is able to hang on wall as an art piece. I use every medium available to me to push the detail. Some decks have metal, glass, ink and collage on one them. The decks are still doing extremely well, so I have chosen to continue with them. Art doesn’t have to just be on canvas. I love wood, so skateboards work well for me.
Sydnei, each and every portrait in your oil paintings, mix media and illustrations, gives a sense of thousand emotions and feelings while looking at all the faces combined with a fashion look. What would you say about it?
I use my art as a tool to communicate. I chose the graphic style because the lines show emotion better. Blending traditional style with somewhat of a comic book illustration style forces attention. In my work, emotion is the main catalyst. It is important that the viewer feels whatever emotion is being conveyed. My work is an autobiographical dialogue of both reality and fantasy. I take the pains of my past and make them beautiful. I take the beauty and magnify it. In all pain, beauty exists. In all sorrow, there is serenity.
Pop Fusion! The title with which you describe your style of artworks. How do you explain this term in your artworks?
Pop Fusion is a dance of graphic, abstraction and collage styles meshed with traditional mediums. It integrates reality and fantasy in one balanced piece.
Sydnei, as we all know that artworks are connected to artist’s unique knowledge & experiences, I would say that “Pop Fusion” is so much you. You have expanded your limits by not just restricting to canvases, mix media or skateboards, but you have been a multi-professional artist who have created artworks in numerous fields be it cars, publications, science, constructions and law enforcement to name a few, also worked as an Art Therapist and an Art Teacher for children with disabilities and I truly admire you for that. Do you think your life experiences play a role in your theme? If so, would you like to share some part of your story that relates to it?
As a young artist, I began creating only abstract art because it felt safe. Color played such a tremendous part of my life and work. I had at one point been interested in architecture. I would take the bus to various areas around Los Angeles to draw parts of buildings to add to my abstract pieces. That led me to use metal and glass in some of my pieces because it was the only way to convey that emotion. Then, two things happened that changed my art. The first was the collapse of the economy. I was booked for shows every month during this time. I was excelling in my career. I could create these pieces so fast because it was no longer a challenge. So, that along with a newspaper article written about my work forced me to change my style. In a review, the reporter dubbed me “a colorist”. Being so young, I had no idea what that meant. My mentor, Ronn Davis explained that it’s a good thing. He stated that my bold use of color was unmatched. He said that my work was ahead of its time, but that if I stuck with it, time would come for me and my work. Somehow, I thought this meant that I colored well. I didn’t like the sound of that, so I avoided color from my palette. Still young, not understanding that black, grey and white are indeed colors! I began the grey series to prove that I didn't need color to be a good artist and get my point across. I stopped painting shapes and began a journey with portraits because the face was difficult for me; thus, a challenge. In the years that followed, I began to miss abstraction and typography. I also missed markers, pencil and ink. This began a new journey of blending the portraits with abstraction and graphics, using color for my focal point. It was there that pop fusion was born. Galleries liked the style but I was told that until I could explain and name it, it would be hard to sell. I dubbed my life’s work then as Pop Fusion. I began my own gallery in Oakland called, “A Fusao Studios” to test the market. It worked. A fusao by the way means fusion.
What do you wish to convey to your audience through your artworks? How do different materials in mix media generate different feelings and emotions within the audiences?
Music plays a very large part in my life. When I look at art, I look at it the way that I hear music. Metals are hard and cold. It’s a force to be reckoned with. Unbreakable! Glass is beautiful and fragile. Fabrics and paper depend on color and texture. I want people to view art in the same way. I will say this for my art and hopefully it will help you understand. “I paint to live and live to paint. For me it is my heartbeat, my symphony, the rhythm in my step and the music in my eyes.” I have felt tremendous pain in my life. I didn’t know how to communicate. I didn’t know how to love. I was too afraid to live. Each moment was survival. When I found art, I began to live. I learnt to love. I learnt how to feel. I use it to communicate. We are all connected. This is my way to connect and communicate and give a little hope and love and say “You are not alone”. Even when I paint a public figure, there is symbolism in the piece that communicates my connection with them.
Would you like to share the importance of having knowledge of graphic design as an artist in this fast-paced world? It might help other artist readers to plan and well research their concepts in advance, who straight away work with their brush directly on the canvas with a blank mind & rub their works again and again.
Graphic design does play a big role in preparing a piece. At least for me. I use the internet to research my subjects. I study people. Especially now during quarantine I go online and see what people are doing. The body language, the way fabric falls in a certain way, etc. I like to draw and then put the drawing into Photoshop to tweak it, study colors and a lot of other research before putting it onto canvas. It saves time for a person like myself because I get busy meeting deadlines, raising a child and taking care of responsibilities of life. So, going back and redoing something is fine but if I can get it right the first time, that's a plus.
Xoxo 24X36, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist
Pop-Fusion is a great theme. How do you plan to take it forward in the coming time?
Pop Fusion is my life’s work. My hope for the future is to continue to grow as an artist. I have some plans on getting my work out in the public eye more and even going from gallery to museum. A few of my pieces are now a part of the permanent collection with the Harriet Tubman Museum of Cape May. So, I am hoping to continue my journey with that.
Sydnei has gotten us to the reality of art, and she actually implements it when she says “I take the pains of my past and make them beautiful. I take the beauty and magnify it.” What could be more beautiful thing in life than creating beauty out of pain? If one has learnt to live this way, life is just pure endless aesthetic pleasure and success just a step away!