This time last year, I was curating the first Artist in the House gallery exhibition, featuring the work of Sandy and Dave's (our founders) daughter, Sydney Therriault. She was a prolific artist and maker, and the three of us spent hours in the cold winter months of January and February pouring through her work making selections for her exhibition. What follows here are my curator notes and statement from her mother, Sandy Wright. ~ Pam
Hold Still: She pauses for a moment, drinking in the gesture, the eyes. Her subject blinks and shifts her weight from one leg to the other. She whispers, “hold still, there you are”, and begins to paint.
“It’s difficult to lose such a soul. She is with us everywhere. We are all surrounded by her now - her presence spiritually and concretely in her artwork that started on her bedroom walls before we can remember -- and we mean directly ON the wall. As young as 2 or 3 years old, we would wake up in the morning to another round of artwork that she had done during the night. At midnight, she would toddle down the hall and wake us up to show us her drawing. Her most recent works, part of her studies in painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design, constantly impressed with a new level of expression and technical achievement.
Her empathy was unmatched. She touched countless lives in important ways, continuously defending the underdog as she took upon herself the world’s inherent unfairness. Sydney lived life to the fullest at every moment. And this is what we will do.”
-- Sandy Wright
To be truly seen by another is an act of love. Sydney was drawn to the vulnerable, she saw it in their eyes, and they became her subjects. Sydney’s figurative work was blooming at Savannah College of Art and Design. She wove in her love for mixed mediums into her portrait work. Torn tissue paper pieces formed faces and silhouettes of embracing figures. An abstract figure howls, a woman and child caught in an embrace, and several self-portraits showed many sides of her emotional life. The portrait of a young woman, staring directly at the viewer, leaves us with more questions than answers. Who is this young woman? Who is she looking at? Is it a self-portrait or a portrait of a treasured friend or a stranger? It asks of us, Hold Still.
Sydney explored abstraction throughout her work. A riot of color and strokes, full physicality through the brush. No thinking required here, just play and emotion. Shape, line, texture take on and translate the emotions she was feeling when making these pieces. It is not surprising that a figure emerges, her fascination with the human form and spirit was there since childhood. A figure emerges from the canvas, the viewer could almost miss it. She may have had the object or the figure in mind when she painted this, or it happened out of the act of painting the emotional field of the moment. Nevertheless, there it is. Abstraction as a method of covering or giving safe harbor to vulnerable emotions and figures will come again and again in her work.
The Charcoal studies were likely done as part of her exploration into figurative drawing and painting at SCAD. The pose and gestures of the figures, as she chose to see them, reveal a compassionate and feminine gaze. There are bodies of all shapes and sizes, beautifully seen and rendered in charcoal and later in full color acrylic paint. Dust and smudge marks from the charcoal sticks remain, as evidence of the energy left behind after the making. These were the work of a student. A young woman learning to see and feel her way through her life and work through art.
~ Pam Heemskerk, Executive Director and Curator
Dani Beaullieu and Pam Heemskerk designed a very special handmade book for Sydney's Celebration of Life held in April on the beautiful grounds of Alden Farms. Each cover is a unique mixed media piece of art, handmade by Dani. The interior of the book includes images of Syd's work from SCAD and images of the wall art in her bedroom from home. Quotes from Sydney and her loved ones pepper through the book. An edition of 75 were made and given to family and dear friends at her Celebration and reception of her show installed at Locals Farm Market from April through September of 2022. Much of her work from the show remains in private collection and is also on view on the first floor of Locals Farm Market and at the Alden Farms Studio in Beallsville, Maryland.
All images below are the original work of Sydney Therriault.