Questions & Answers

SYDNIE JIMENEZ B. 1997 United States

Orlando-born Chicago-based artist Sydnie Jimenez is well known for her iconic ceramic sculptures, centred around the representation and humanization of black and brown youth in an American context. We caught up with Sydnie whilst she partakes in an artist residency in the heart of Norwich, UK about her exciting projects and who she'd want to sit down to dinner with.

Hey Sydnie! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how you first got interested in art and ceramics?

I grew up in Georgia and moved to Chicago for art school in 2016. I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with some knowledge of painting and drawing but quickly became interested in the process of making 3D works. Clay seemed like the best choice for me to work as a figurative artist. SAIC is connected to the Art Institute of Chicago so I was early on exposed to their large collection of Mesoamerican ceramics and African artworks. These made a big impact on me and inspired me to keep working figuratively with clay. The non-realistic and character-ish ways of portraying people really resonated with me as someone who is interested in cartoons and comics, so I was inspired to translate my comic-y drawing style to ceramic figurative sculpture.


Can you walk us through your creative process from idea to the finished piece?

I tend to not work from drawings or sketches, just kind of with a loose idea in mind. Because of the nature of clay, I also work on multiple pieces at once to give time for the sculptures to start drying and firm up so that when I work on something it won’t sag or collapse from the weight of the wet clay. I use hand-building techniques such as coil-building and slab-building to build up hollow forms. For example, when I decide to make a standing figure, I start a few pairs of shoes with slabs and then slowly build up each one by adding a few coils to feet/ legs and then moving on to the next one to give time for the previous sculpture to firm up. I love using different coloured glazes, underglazes, and slips to create visually interesting textures and colour combinations on my sculptures. I am really interested in fashion and how people express themselves through clothing so I tend to put a lot of detail in the carving and design of the ‘clothes’ and ‘hair’ of figures.

You're based in Chicago, what's the best part about living and being an artist there?

Chicago’s so fun! Living in Chicago is a big inspiration for me, there’s always some art or music event happening and I get to meet new people or spend time with friends. These experiences are what I inadvertently call on when I’m making faces, hairstyles, outfits, etc. Chicago’s culture is also interestingly tied to the South in the US because of the Great Migration of formerly enslaved Africans to areas like Chicago and Detroit, so I am happy to explore that connection a bit more. I also love to travel as well and am so happy to be in Norwich.

If your figures could come to life and go on an adventure, where do you imagine they would go and what mischief might they get into?

Hmm, they would probably be at a party, picnic, or bar and eventually beat up a creepy man or something. Hahaha. Some of the figures look pretty pissed and protective of one another, but that’s coming from my own some not-so-positive experiences. We have to look out for each other; and they would do just that, then get back to celebrating life.

Do you have a favourite project or piece that holds special significance to you?

Recently I have been making some more works inspired by Catholic aesthetics and stories as I was raised Catholic and kind of thinking of the violent history done to my ancestors by Catholic practitioners. I made a few large figures based off of biblical women figures including the Virgin, Eve, and Lilith. I think the one of Mary was one of my favourites, she is pretty imposing pulling a flaming sword out of the ground at about 4 feet tall. I wanted to lean into this darker theme to think about how women are often portrayed in these kinds of stories. When you think about the Virgin’s story, she was only a child chosen to be a glorified womb and then praised for her docility and obedience. With this sculpture, I wanted to give her agency and show her divine strength and wrath, a protector of women, as she is seen by some women in Catholicism.

If you could have dinner with 3 artists, who would it be?

I would say probably Simone Leigh, Yoshitomo Nara, and Kukuli Velarde. I Would love to talk with each about their ceramic processes and their deeply thoughtful concepts, I am a big fan of each. Some of my biggest inspirations.

Finally, any exciting projects you can share with us coming up in 2024?

I have a solo show in LA coming up in June at Albertz-Benda. When I get back to Chicago I will be busy making those works, so excited!


Check out Sydnie’s Instagram for updates on her and her ceramic adventures.