Monday, March 19, 2012

"Letting it magically happen" - The art of Sylvia Ji


I started tonight with the intention of gathering quotes by female artists to share with you all in honor of Women's History Month (March). Instead, I happened upon a new, contemporary artist I had never seen before, and I have to say, I'm pretty enthralled.

Red Quechquemitls, 2010. Via.

This was the first work of Sylvia's that I saw, and truth be told, the elaborate face painting reminded me of a calavera from the Mexican Día de los Muertos, and I assumed (wrongfully) that this was going to be a latin artist. At least I was right in believing this traditional Mexican holiday inspired her.

I still remember learning about el Día de los Muertos (November 2nd) for the first time in the 8th grade from my exceptional, and slightly eccentric, social studies teacher Mrs. Lynch. She was so cool. And el Día is a fantastic, slightly spooky, holiday too. It's like Halloween, in a way, but is specifically for honoring one's deceased ancestors, vs. gorging oneself on as much candy as humanly possible.

Blue Rose, 2008. Via.

Sylvia Ji was born in 1982 and received her BFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. She's exhibited her work worldwide, presenting in both group and solo shows, her first successful solo show happening in the last year of her undergraduate career.

Belle Epoch, 2005-2006. Via.

Ji's style and content are both beautiful and edgy, whimsical and haunting, provocative and emotional. The graceful women she depicts express a range of emotion: daring, sadness, longing, a challenge, lust, anger, and almost all evoke a sense of mystery. According to the Joshua Liner Gallery (New York, NY), Ji's women can be symbolic reflections of herself, people she knows, or "nameless faces set in a landscape of fleeing and decaying beauty."

Black Domina, 2008. Via.

She embraces a range of cultures in her works, all the while focusing on women. The Mexican flavor is obvious. She also has some Asian women, what appear to be Native American women, Baroque European, and more French looking women throughout in oeuvre. (Is calling it an oeuvre too art historical of me?)

Lovesick, 2005-2006. Via.

Lovestruck, 2005-2006. Via.

I was personally drawn to these works because of a) the calavera painted faces; b) the intense colors; c) the feminine mystique and mystery, as well as raw emotion of her characters; d) the elaborate costuming. Even on Nyx, seen below, who is for all-intensive purposes wearing nothing, the rose, feather plume, crescent moons, and stars in her unruly, piled-high mane is just exquisite. Lovestruck and Lovesick above remind me a little bit of Alice in Wonderland.

Nyx, 2009. Via.

Calendula, 2011. Via.

This one is probably my favorite. I love the contrast between the yellow-oranges and the green-blues for starters. Next, while her gaze is absolutely haunting and penetrates every nook and cranny of your soul....her gaze penetrates every nook and cranny of you soul. It's a full-frontal conversation between Calendula and the viewer. And obviously not a very good one. Her unyielding, narrowed sky-colored eyes leave you wondering..."what in the heck did I do to offend this chick?" It makes the viewer fathom and imagine a story in their heads...and that is a very powerful thing.

I guess that's just it. For me, her work is Power.


  1. ooooh i like. fierce.

    she doesn't sound like she really wants to be on camera for a lot of that video!

  2. I looked at these illustrations a couple years ago when Chris and were Day of the Dead peoples for Halloween! That was BEFORE this year when people starting talking about the whole "We're a culture,not a costume" thing. Oops. I loved that costume anyways, and I'd gladly do it again... BECAUSE IT WAS AWESOME.