Sylvie McClelland

Neighborhood: Mission

My background directly informs my identity and in turn, my paintings. My family is working class and ethnically/culturally mixed. My father was a therapist and social worker and he worked to reconnect with his roots and to heal the intergenerational trauma in our family. These struggles have found their way into my work. As I had to turn away from my own art making in order to survive, it seemed particularly important to explore the themes relating to why that was. These include psychology, family/relational stories, the experience of being mixed-race/cultural, and gender/queer identity.

My work visually explores the construct of the human self and identity. As we move forward through life, our memories, relationship experiences, and physical and emotional connections to the natural world keep us moored to our growing self. I’m fascinated by the stories people tell themselves about who they are and I layer imagery to create an emotional mirror for the viewer. Being queer and having a culturally mixed family, it is particularly important to me to portray subjects that aren’t part of the mainstream art world. Yet though my work is intimate and sensitive in theme, it is bold and brave in execution. The use of color is of great importance to me: I greatly enjoy it and I have come to realize after reconnecting to my heritage/the stories in my family that the use, even the overuse of color, has been very rewarding as a reclaiming of culture and space. Through natural imagery and symbolism, I use these colors to create glazed settings for my subjects. When viewing my work, I hope that the observer sees not only someone else’s story, but also finds a place to resonate and consider their own perception of self and being.