Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Conversations with ...
Printmaker Syd Cross incorporates tragedies
into collection opening in Blacksburg Jan. 26
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Starting Jan. 26, an exhibition of some of her works will be featured in the Armory Art Gallery in downtown Blacksburg.
Cross recently shared a few thoughts on her history as artist and teacher and on the political motivations behind her new exhibition.
What are you attempting to discuss with your work?
Sydney Cross: The work is my own impression of things I feel compelled to talk about. Things I see in the news, happening in the world, the stupid war in Iraq. Some of these works incorporate AP [Associated Press] wire photos. There's a large piece that incorporates a photograph of the hand of Daniel Pearl [Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped Jan. 23, 2002, and later murdered on camera by his abductors] . . . So I use a lot of different sources for the images in that regard. I make comments about homeland security, which I think is a farce.
The other work has to do with the environment: how we treat each other and how we treat the environment and how indicative that is of the rest of the way we treat one another. A lot of the work for the recent drawings are . . . about how to play with process and images within process.
What projects have you worked on in the past?
SC: I've been in a lot of national portfolio exchanges. One of them is a fairly important one — that's the history of lithography ["Drawing on Stone: Lithographs from the Permanent Collection."] And it celebrates the 200th anniversary of lithography. That portfolio was placed in the Whitney Museum [of American Art] . . . I've been in a lot of exhibitions, I've done residencies, I did a residency in Belgium . . .
And teaching my students, and seeing my students go out and get teaching positions, that's very important to me.
I think for a lot of artists or creative people who go into academia, there's sometimes a tension there between academics who write about art and don't make art and people who are driven by the need to make art.
SC: I don't know who you're talking about exactly. Are you talking about art historians?
Well, for instance I did my master's in English. And I thought there was a difference in the people who were there because they were writers and the people who were there because they were book people and would want to talk about writing without being writers in that sense — in the sense of creative discourse as opposed to academic discourse. But teaching is a big part of why a lot of people go into academia. How important is teaching to you? Can you elaborate on your process as a teacher, your goals as a teacher? What do you hope to accomplish with your students?
SC: I think the best thing about teaching is that you learn that you're always still a student. And that always beats what you're doing in your own studio. So there's a give and take on that. I do instruct students, and I do guide them in their education and how to get where they need to go and how to get the best out of themselves, I hope. And in turn I get a reward and continue to learn new things, too. It's not a vacuum; there's a constant give and take.
Is there a particular class for you that's a favorite to teach? A favorite medium to teach or a favorite focus?
SC: We bounce from doing a woodcut, which is all manual, to working on the computer to something else on the laser printer.
Can you tell me a little about your history? How did you get into art to begin with? You've been doing art for a long time.
SC: Thirty years or so. I got into it in high school, and I had a very influential high school teacher. And I got a scholarship to go to undergraduate school, and I went to graduate school and got my degree . . . and proceeded to get a position at a university. And I have been teaching and making art ever since.
What medium did you start out with? What led you into print-making specifically?
SC: Because I didn't know how to paint . . . I started out in painting, and it didn't fulfill what I wanted to do.
Selected work of Sydney Cross will be on display at the Armory Gallery, 201 Draper Road in Blacksburg. There will be an opening reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 26, and the exhibition will be on display through Feb. 25.