LifestyleSydney Vernon's exhibition explores Black femme identity

Sydney Vernon’s exhibition explores Black femme identity

Sydney Vernon’s latest exhibition, “Interior Lives,” catapults visitors into the heart of the Black femme experience through a blend of painting, drawing, collage, and printmaking.

The portrait of a woman, rendered in vibrant strokes of blue and green, captivates with its blend of boldness and grace, a striking piece that commands attention within the tranquil gallery space. (Courtesy of Michael Anthony/@Mike.ant)
On view at Phillips@THEARC through June 6, this exhibition showcases Vernon’s unique ability to weave together personal and cultural narratives.

A native of Prince George’s County, Maryland, Vernon has been reimagining her family’s vintage photographs since 2018. By superimposing these images with elements from Black American culture, she created a series of images from memories and histories that challenge our understanding of identity. Her process involves projecting the images onto paper, creating an underdrawing, and then adding layers of silk screen patterns, pastels, and charcoal to bring the scenes to life.

The exhibition features new and recent works that highlight Vernon’s exploration of intimate interior scenes and familiar spaces. Her connection to the Nabis artists, particularly Pierre Bonnard, is evident in her inventive approach to painterly marks.

“My connection to Bonnard is as a seer and looker, interpreting things that appear as banal, such as how light shines through a window,” Vernon told The Informer.

Artist Sydney Vernon (left) animatedly discusses the rich narratives within her painting as a visitor listens intently, together exploring the interplay of story and color that brings the canvas to life. (Courtesy of Michael Anthony/@Mike.ant)
Vernon’s work is deeply rooted in her experiences growing up in the DMV and visiting its museums. After studying at the prestigious Cooper Union in New York, she has exhibited her work in various galleries in the United States and Europe. Her connection to her hometown, and its arts communities, are driving forces behind her work.

The exhibition also highlights Vernon’s commitment to community engagement. 

“Working with the community engagement team at the Phillips was amazing. I was asked to do this project because of my connection to Prince George’s County and the intimate qualities of observation my work shares with Pierre Bonnard,” she explained.

The artist’s work with middle schoolers in the D.C. area reflects her belief in the transformative power of arts education.

Maleke Glee, executive director of Stable Arts, praises Vernon’s growth as an artist: 

“It is beautiful to witness her creative and professional growth. She is a testament to the rich talent of the area and its influence.”

“Interior Lives” is not merely an aesthetically stimulating presentation; it’s an invitation to explore the depths of the Black femme experience from the perspective of a talented artist deeply connected to her family and her community.

Raimi Gbadamosi, chair of Fine Art at Howard University’s Department of Art, sums up the exhibition’s impact: 

“There is something reassuring about the persistence of artists to make sense of their world. It is engaging to see it continue.”

Source: Washington Informer

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