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The People's Printshop Interview with Syd Bee!

Could you tell us a bit about where you were born and where you are now?

I was born on a California air force base that has since been closed due to all the toxic materials dumped in the ground there. I currently live in Seattle, Washington where there are beautiful trees and water, and lots of other fun, friendly, artists to hang out with.

Do you remember your first artistic inklings?

As a kid, I was surrounded by my mother's crafts at home and I used a lot of her scrap papers & fabrics to make dolls and paper mache creatures. I would draw on my bedroom walls (later painting over them in bright pink) and I was all over projects in school that required some craft or building. I adored all my art classes.

How was your experience at art school?

Art school is interesting because on one hand it gives you this focused time to experiment with materials and opportunities to meet people you otherwise wouldn't. But on the other hand, the cost can be impossibly high for lots of people, myself included. Many things had to line up for me to be able to go, and I was incredibly lucky.

What drew you to surreal and mysterious type of imagery?

I think it comes from my inability to explain in coherent terms certain feelings or senses. Turning amorphous colors, shapes or feelings into visual, narrative paintings is something I like to do and I've found using symbols within figures or colors helps me define the sense that I'm after. I've compared it before to like trying to explain a dream to someone else. How words fail at capturing the feeling of your dream. Painting gets me a little closer, but even still I feel there could be other ways.

 

Could you tell us a bit about "Breathing Spell," your print release with us?

My painting "Breathing Spell" was part of a series I made for my show at Haven Gallery back in May this year. The series was a string of images which, individually, sit like vignettes of emotion. The idea was that pieces like "Breathing Spell" could act as snapshots, attempts as capturing that dreamlike, fleeting feeling I'm so often chasing after. I've filled this image with symbols that are important to me, or were so at the time.

What is a normal day like for you in the studio?

A typical studio day for me means having some coffee, catching up on whatever book I’m reading (currently it is “Camille Claudel: A Life” by Odile Ayral-Clause), warm up with some drawing and then get to work. Oh, and try not to get too distracted.

As an artist, what do you believe to be the most important aspect of creating?

For me, it's become increasingly important to make room for play and experimentation. I think there's this expectation that if you receive any degree of attention for something you make, you should only make that type of thing. It's important for me to stay engaged in the work that I make, and that requires lots of time to mess around with new things.

What, if any, are the downsides of creating?

Time management, for one. Balancing jobs, life responsibilities, and time for art making. Otherwise, one of the most stressful moments for me is when the work finally leaves the safety of my studio and is no longer in my care.

How do you feel about the proliferation of social media and it's affect on artists and art?

It worries me how quickly social media evolves and how it affects people who rely on it to make a living. In a hot flash Instagram became a beacon for many artists and then in one fell swoop something like an algorithm change ruined views and sales for so many people. There's an expectation that as an artist you must have an online presence, but at the same time we have very little autonomy with how those platforms use (or ignore) our content. How is it that I can choose to follow your work but then the platform won't show me your work?! The truth is that certain content is rewarded with high visibility, and that absolutely affects the kind of work that is made and shared.

What's coming up next for you that we can look forward to?

I am thrilled to experiment with some new materials and directions in the coming months. Many fun projects are coming down the pike and it's all very exciting!