Updated: Aug 17
Sydney Gruber is following her bliss, and she encourages you to as well. It's a mantra she's lived by for the past six years, guiding her journey as artist and individual. That journey is currently on display at Kentuck's Gallery at Hotel Indigo. Her new show There and Back Again showcases the high pigment colors, layers of brushwork, and glossy sheen that her work is known for, while also incorporating themes of loss and re-connection. She describes it as a blend of high-energy and whimsical abstract painting, a call-back to the fantasy lineage of the phrase coined by Tolkien.
"Sometimes you have to go there to come back again. And no matter where you go, there you are."
Of course, those themes are open to viewer interpretation. Sydney's work is abstract, evoking the intention behind her pieces through composition and hue rather than distinct, recognizable figures. She describes one piece featured in There and Back Again, "The Trip," as a reminder to find the joy in life, an emotion she sometimes forgets but always returns to. It's a 40"x30" canvas, and every one of those inches is covered in arcing swathes of color, pastels overlaid with rich blues merging into a burst of greens and oranges reminiscent of flame.
Other pieces in the show feature what Sydney calls Pulse Spectrums, jagged designs suggest heartbeats or sound waves that cut across the center of the paintings like vibrant rents in the canvas. These are akin to diary entries, she says, each one a reflection of the energy she was feeling at the time. She draws that energy from her environment, whether it be nature or gatherings of people.
"The Pulse Spectrums have been a very special collection for me and one of the most commercially successful series I have developed since becoming a professional creative. Art imitates life, and these abstractions explore the relationship between the internal and the external. While developing this collection over the last year, I would go seeking myself but miraculously ended up finding all of you. Pulse Spectrums have emerged from meditating on the unity of energy through the expression of life in color. They are renderings of raw energy I pick up from different people and different experiences—they are both mirrors and reflections of the pulse of life."
Many of her Pulse Spectrums are set against a light background, drawing the viewer directly into the kaleidoscopic center of the piece. But some emerge from a sea of inky black, framed by gold on one side. These are part of her Gold Spectrum collection. It's a collection that was born from her exploration of the light and shadows within herself, a process which she says has helped her learn to be more vulnerable and open-ended. She feels that journey of self-discovery has made her work bolder and more sophisticated, an evolution most evident in the pieces of Gold Spectrum.
Sydney recently moved her studio from Kentuck Art Center's campus, where she was an artist in residence for three years, into her home. She says the change has come with challenges as well as opportunities.
"The edges of my life have dissolved into one another and fashioned a new routine ever since I moved into this new house. My resting port is also my business’ headquarters, and I am many women all at once under one roof."
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, it's a roof she's had to spend more time under than she could have predicted. Still, she says this time has allowed her energy to stem "from a deep introspection and much needed reflection... Embodying my values has helped me to develop clarity in my thinking as well as offer ideas to my communities that resonate through both my words and my art."
Before COVID-19 and her move to a home studio, Sydney was working in a public space on Kentuck's campus, as well as traveling to festivals and creating a kids' art curriculum for Kentuck's Imagination and Enrichment camps.
"My three years as a Kentuck Artist in Residence helped me grow immensely as a professional creative and made me feel transcendentally connected to all who have contributed a part of themselves to this unique community. Many movers and shakers as well as patrons preceded me, and many more will follow. Thank you for letting me breathe my own personal spirit into this collective dream as an initiate and as a graduate."
She feels we're in the midst of a modern day art renaissance, and she invites you to take part in it with her. So take Sydney's advice, follow your bliss. It might just lead you to the Gallery at Hotel Indigo—maybe even There and Back Again.
There and Back Again is on display now at Hotel Indigo in Downtown Tuscaloosa. The show runs until October 28.
When asked about her next collection, Sydney says:
"A lot of my work in the last year has focused on contrasts. I believe I am moving into a creative period where I aim to explore harmony and its many presentations. More concretely, I have been picking up my camera a lot and seeing how the world looks through my lens. Some mixed media works could be on the horizon. While I imagine I will always return to the land of abstracts, I have put my finger on the pulse of something else in need of attention. For those too eager to wait, I have just released a small collection on my website consisting of twelve guitars—my first harmony.
You can find Sydney's work online at www.sydneygruber.com, and in store at Sandy Hubler Fine Art (Little Rock, AK), DCI Gallery (Memphis, TN), Decor Design Furniture (Pensacola, FL), and Kentuck's Gallery Shop (Downtown Northport, AL). Sydney also produces high-end signature chess sets which are distributed by her partner company, Chess House. Follow Sydney on Facebook and Instagram @seekingsydneygruber.