You've likely seen Detroit painter Sydney G. James' murals in Eastern Market and perhaps on an East Grand Boulevard building now displaying "The Girl with the D Earring," a nine-story addition to a planned creative center called Chroma Detroit.
This fall she began a residency program at the University of Michigan, where James is preparing smaller-scale works for a solo exhibit opening Nov. 9 at a campus gallery in the Institute for the Humanities. It'll be titled "Watch Me Work. Portraits of Self."
In the spirit of that theme, the 41-year-old artist lets Facebook followers preview her portraits-in-progress. The glimpse at right is posted Monday afternoon with a creative statement that reflects a year when "so MUCH (arguably too much) has changed:"
Through utter shock, through grief, through disgust, through fear, through ANGER, through heartbreak -- through it all, we work. Through this chaos, we work. For our families, our communities, our sanctuaries, we work. Through exhaustion, we work. Through a pandemic, we are working.
We work to fill voids. In our minds, we work to fill the "Void," but we often don’t recognize the "voids" that that very work creates. The chaos surrounds us, yet we push through the heavy weight of all the woes of the hamster wheel of days.
"Watch Me Work" is a celebration of Black Women who get it done! From the Event Planning Zoom Mommy to the USPS mail lady, we work. The world watches and we work. The world turns away, we work.
Even those of us who sit around all day and manage to make it to the next day safely, it took work. Through the daily attacks on the pigmented people of the world, we work. We work. We work. I work.
James graduated from Cass Tech High School ('97) and earned an illustration degree at the College for Creative Studies ('01). Her artistry has been displayed at MoCAD, the Charles H. Wright Museum, Red Bull House of Art, Innser State Gallery and other Detroit showcases. She won a Kresge Arts in Detroit fellowship in 2017.
"Exploring themes of the racial and gender positioning of the black woman in America as 'last' or 'least among others' in society has been the central theme in Sydney's work recently," posts Playground Detroit, a Gratiot Avenue gallery downtown. "Her portraits and murals seek to reposition this narrative of the black woman's visibility and importance bringing them to the forefront of the conversation."