If you know anything about the Detroit art scene, you know the name, Sydney G. James. If not, I won’t criticize you for being the ostrich with your head in the art sand. However, what I will do is introduce you to a phenomenal dope black female artist who’s name is mentioned with the new voices of our time, labeled within the cool kid groups as young, black and gifted.
Sydney G. James always knew she wanted to be an artist. When she was three years old, she sat at a table and drew a picture of Gargamel from the Smurf’s cartoon series. Excited, she went to show her mother who upon seeing the accuracy of the drawing did not initially believe that the three-year-old drew the picture. James’s mom made her sit at the table and drew the picture again. From that moment on, Sydney G. James was an artist.
Fast forward to 2016 and James is working tirelessly to finish yet another dope mural in her second year as an artist at Murals in the Market. It’s home for her; she’s done nothing else but be who she is, an artist. From being an Art Director in corporate America to running her brand G.R.in.D (Girls Raised In Detroit) to being featured in galleries around the country, James is home, and this piece at Murals in the Market is a stepping-stone into the future of her and her art.
Murals in the Market is a 9-day event in partnership with Eastern Market Corporation and Knight Foundation. 1xRUN and Inner State Gallery that activated the entire footprint of the Market with a series of activities coinciding with the neighborhood’s yearly Eastern Market After Dark.
“It’s kind of like Detroit’s own Art Basel festival, she said. It’s a mashup of over forty dope artist. From photographers to street artists to figurative, fine artists like myself. I’m not a street artist, but I can paint on anything so when I was approach last year for the inaugural festival to paint on a wall, I said yes. I can absolutely paint on a wall because I can paint on anything. I’m thankful to be around artist with so many different styles, and there’s no competition, just love. It’s amazing.
The piece for this year’s mural is larger than life. “I have a young black woman holding a protest sign. On the protest sign is a poem by Scheherazade W. Parrish titled, “The Definitive List of Everything That Will Keep You Safe As A Black
Woman Being In America” following the title, the sign is blank to symbolize the current state of racial injustice and attack that we are under in America.”
James also pays tribute to local Detroit artists on top of their game, like Rashaun Rucker (Pigeon in the hair), Tylonn J. Sawyer (J.Dilla Mask in woman’s pocket) and Tiff Massey. (Bracelet).
“I am really into my message because this is how I am feeling right now and it’s reflected in this piece and my recent work titled “Appropriated Not Appreciated The State of Black Women In America.” Black women inspire this piece – Because we are behind everything, we have been behind every movement, yet we are not acknowledged,” she said.
Faced with the issues of more and more black bodies being murdered, James wanted to pose the question to everyone, ‘what are we going to do?’
With great power comes great responsibility and now that her message and her art have put her name on the main stage, James is more than up to the job, but initially it was a little unnerving.
“I feel that being an up and coming powerful voice makes me anxious. Like wow, this is real. A couple of weeks ago I was just an artist, now I’m this voice, and people want to hear what my thoughts are and what I have to say.”
Now that James is an artist with a voice of the time, she recognizes that she has a responsibility to her community- especially to young girls. She recalls the time when a mother and her young daughter spotted the artist working on the mural. The mom told her daughter, whose name was also Sydney that they shared the same name and that if James could be an artist and paint a wall so could she. “It’s super dope to be a role model for girls, not just black girls, but all girls. To be able to have someone look at you and say I can do that, she’s doing it, and she looks like me. The responsibility is fulfilling and a little unnerving at the same time.”
As for what’s to come? I think we can all agree that James got next. “I think the projects are going to get bigger, like Murals in the Market, last year was a stepping stone to other major projects that I have been apart of such as GM and Fresh Empire. I have projects coming up in Atlanta and LA all because of the exposure of last year and this year Murals in the Market.”