the thing with feathers

...expressions of grief and hope

Sydney McMath

Upstate artist Sydney McMath is using her works to illustrate that hope and grief are intertwined, and she hopes visitors to her upcoming exhibition at the Artists Collective | Spartanburg May 31 through June 25 will see the two “cannot exist without one another, which is the very meaning of life.”

The exhibit, “the thing with feathers: expressions of grief and hope,” will be held in ACS’s Gallery III. A reception will be held June 16 in conjunction with Spartanburg ArtWalk. The show will include new 2D works, including paintings and jewelry, using acrylic, mixed media, mixed metals and found objects.

“These paintings are darker than mine typically are, I think because the subject matter is often desolate, heavy and grey,” says McMath, a founding member of the Artists Collective | Spartanburg, formerly the West Main Artists Co-op, which opened in 2009. “I believe hope and light can’t be appreciated fully unless we can see and feel utter sadness and grief. Even my more optimistic paintings in this exhibit will have a somber appearance for this reason. I am also incorporating bird-themed jewelry and a few mixed-media pieces to give the show some texture.”

McMath says she wants those who see the works “to be comforted by knowing that we all share the same cycle of hope and grief, building and rebuilding. Just like continuing to go on as an animal rescuer, seeing so much pain, we also can continue life between our own highs and lows. I want people to know that grief and hope are intertwined, inescapable and cyclical, both good and bad.”

The inspiration for the art in the exhibition is that “the parallels between grief and hope are shared among all species, human and non,” McMath says. “My love of animals, especially birds, influences the majority of my life, down to making jewelry to fund my rescue efforts. In rescue, there is so much sadness. Human cruelty knows no bounds, and every day, you don’t know how you can possibly face another case of neglect and abuse by humans, on top of the injuries sustained by animals in the natural world. Yet, every day, something makes you go on. Something gives you hope and purpose and you know you have to keep fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. I find this is a direct parallel to life in general – when we are overburdened by grief – we find a glimmer of hope to sustain us and carry us through.”

The pieces in the exhibition will be offered for sale, with prices ranging from $50 to $1,500.

McMath, a native of the Washington, D.C., area, moved to Spartanburg to attend Converse College (now Converse University), where she received many honors and awards, including studying abroad in France. She graduated in 2004. She became recognized for her large, bright abstract paintings, which often relayed tumultuous feelings and referenced major events, including a series on Hurricane Katrina. After receiving her graduating BFA in studio art, McMath moved to New York City in 2005 to work with artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, along with filmmaker Albert Maysles, on The Gates project.

McMath’s 3D art gradually transitioned from ceramics into jewelry making. Her studios at ACS are where her works are created. Her studios also are where she teaches piano, voice, and guitar lessons and where she writes her original music.

She serves as the chair of membership at ACS and works on the marketing team as a social media agent.

She lives between Spartanburg and New Orleans, working as a full-time artist and animal rescuer in both locations.


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