Mind and Hand 04: Artist Sydia Reyes

Posted by BC3 Team January 7, 2018

Welcome to our fourth post documenting interviews with people who work in the craft and art industry. Our previous interview can be found here: Sander Willig. As designers we depend on a number of different experts who work with their hands to produce our designs or work in conjunction with us to create furniture, cabinetry, objects, art or anything that might be installed in our projects. Last year we decided to start telling the stories of these experts, both to learn more about what they do and how they do it, but also to expose their work to our potential clients. We have learned that successful design hinges on strong relationships with our clients, builders, craftspeople, artists and engineers.

Meet Sydia Reyes. Sculptor from Venezuela. Her medium ranges from metal to concrete and her scale ranges from large to building-like art pieces. Her work has been exhibited internationally and we had a chance to have lunch and talk to her about career, her art and future plans for a studio here in Miami.

Below are some excerpts our discussion:

Sydia: My first formal experience, when in Venezuela, a wealthy woman was building a big house with several hectares. The Chilean architect was able to capture her vision for the design, until it came to designing the front door; she contacted many artists to choose between their proposals.

So, a friend of mine told me: “Sydia, you should come with me to this house’s construction site and see what ideas come to mind” … when I saw the space, I only saw bricks, but they were stunning … Immediately, an idea of the door came to my mind … She ended up in love with the door because she felt the piece was very delicate and sensual. She could she through because of the weaving … and months later when they had to design the stairs for four levels, they called me … and a lot of people told me they resemble the same waves of Gaudi’s stairs.

Sydia: Well, that was my first formal experience with architecture, and it was an arduous job because it not the same as doing a sculpture which you can design it as you please, the size you prefer and without a function, just to be seen. In architecture, there has to be functionality, proportion and that it don’t fall over, the railing needs to be a certain height, therefore it was a challenge for me but it had a good outcome. It [The design] was very different than normal stairs but it feels like an artwork while maintaining all the requirements and structure of a normal staircase.

Interviewer: How did everything start?

Sydia: I started when I was a little kid. When I was 5 years old, after eating lunch everyone would take a nap but I wouldn’t want to take a nap because I only wanted to draw. I would tell her that I would behave and stay quiet only if I could draw, and I have been doing it since.

My mom respected it and when she wakes up I would show her my work and she would show them to my family and they would congratulate me. Later, when I was 11 or 12 years old my dad, who is a journalist, worked at a very large building with a terrace on top, looking at a park. The National Pantheon was located in the park and a highly controversial Venezuelan artist from Paris was offering workshops for kids…

Sydia: Pascual Navarro is an incredible artist, very intelligent and controversial because he was against the system and society.

Sydia: To make clear, I was in my last year of high school, and I had one class left and my dad told me: “You are not going to your drawing classes anymore because you need to study and finish your last class”. I cried and fought to get back into my drawing classes but it didn’t happen. To me it was a huge frustration that forced me to leave my artworks behind. I used to draw and break my drawings madly. I was furious because there was nothing I could do to go back to my drawing classes.

When I finished my senior year o high school I met my children’s father, we got married and move to Puerto La Cruz where I found an art school and started taking classes. Since then, I haven’t stopped doing art.

Sydia: When I was studying in art school, I would be given a casted piece in clay and then I would pour plaster on it and get a solid piece. I liked it very much but I wanted to learn other techniques. In fact, a learned to work with resin, and carving but I didn’t learn welding because the school didn’t have the equipment. It was a very modest school but highly discipline.

The problem was that because the school didn’t have enough funds, they couldn’t afford another machine, and I was graduating by that time. Therefore, I took a metallurgical workshop outside of the school and I learn to weld. At the beginning I learned the old way, using electrodes so many of my peers would make fun of my friend and me saying: “These ladies are going to get stick with the moldings”. It was very funny thing but we became skilled with welding and cutting metals, which are hard things to do…

… Later on in my career, I stopped working with colors and started studying the natural colors of materials, using raw materials. It gave me more depth into my concepts, respecting the materials, the forms; it wasn’t the emotional part at the beginning, it was a more developed concept until I got into these shapes.

Interviewer: What makes your art unique? And how would you describe your process when designing? When you start a piece.

Sydia: Yes. It is like a flash, I mean, an idea that comes to your mind, something that comes and you start drawing or you look for a piece of paper and start giving it shape. My times, when I started working with iron, I made my models with clay and that is why you are going to see in many of my iron pieces, organic shapes like a curve, which is folded because the model was like that.

For me it was vital to break the metal’s stiffness, for example, when I modeled the piece in clay it would be easy to mold but then when doing it in metal I would have to work the curve and try to imitate the model. Therefore, I would study and forced myself to use two completely different materials, but I would love to break with the harshness and obtain a soft and smooth look, it was satisfying.

Interviewer: Which is your favorite commission or piece and why? What makes it special?

Sydia: Testigos, it was a complex piece but is like the mother of trees because it has to do with forests and how humans cut the trees. In the case of Venezuela, it happens due to the gold and diamond extraction and is something horrible. In 1994 I went to the Amazon with a film director and we flew over the area.

You could see the beauty of an Amazon forest, the green tress and out of nowhere an area of cut trees. It was like a cemetery of trees, and then when we landed it was even more awful because you could closer the beautiful tall trees with its fauna and flora and then, a few meters or hectares away, a piece of land with cut trees on top of each other.

And of course you know how trees have the roots at the bottom and the branches with leafs at the top. Well, you wouldn’t even recognize with part was the roots or the top. So yes, it was one after another. It was like a tangled mess of trees and their trunks and it was really shocking that I even cried. I said: “How could this be possible”.

To read it, at first you might not understand it but if you watch the video you would understand the message that is called Protesis, because prosthesis is like the tree, when someone loose an extremity they can replace it with a metal piece.

The roots, the metal trunk and on top if doesn’t have leafs. There is the viewer’s message. In some way that work is very meaningful and from it came the other trees but in negative space which symbolize the trees that are not there anymore.

Interviewer: How do you see your art evolving in the next decade?

Sydia: The concept, and for me, all my art has to do with the human being, the surroundings and thoughts, always. There isn’t a single piece where I’d say: “No, the physical abstraction”. However, in my last work people would think that I went a separate direction from that theme, the Multiversos, is like creating conscious about the future, is a very difficult topic, still studying.

I decided to study it because there were many things in my life that drove me to it, without knowing. Is like thinking something is going to happen, like parallel lives. So that is the reason, and the shapes, I started playing with shapes, concepts, and right now I’m experimenting, I think I still have a lot to explore that topic.