On Tuesday, Sept. 19, artist Sydia Reyes gave a lecture titled “Art as Urban Transcendence.” Reyes is a distinguished artist and sculptor from Caracas, Venezuela. Her works focus on political, ecological and societal complications that leave an impact on all viewers, but are especially relevant to urban life around the world. Located in the Wriston Art Center Auditorium, Reyes’s lecture provided the audience with background information about her art career, which spanned the years 1991 to 2015.
Hearing Reyes lecture on the inspirations behind her sculptures was highly informative and inspiring. Reyes spoke in Spanish, while Professor of Spanish Gustavo Fares translated for her. The lecture criticized many disturbing aspects of contemporary society. Several of her works involve the idea of urban decay and the disrepair of public spaces in her hometown. Through her work, Reyes confronts and questions what is considered acceptable in our world today.
Reyes incorporates sound and video into her sculptures quite effectively. In a series of sculptures concerning the state of homeless children in Venezuela, Reyes included hidden speakers in her work that continually played the cries of helpless children. By incorporating this sonic element into her work, Reyes reaches out to her audience through their emotions.
Her most prominent and ongoing series of projects is titled “Boceto para un Bosque,” or “Sketch of a Forest.” These are large outdoor sculptures that are displayed in several places all around the world. This ecological-themed project fights excessive deforestation; her use of negative space in these sculptures is especially impactful.
Finally, Reyes discussed one of her most recent projects. This project, “Ribbon of Humanity,” raises awareness about a multitude of health issues. The sculpture depicts a large ribbon, and while the project has a generally simple look, its construction took six months. Surrounded by lighting, the sculpture is illuminated with a different color each month, the color being determined by the particular month’s theme regarding health awareness. Hearing Reyes describe this project, it was easy to see how passionate she is about the issues she tackles in her art.
Reyes is an inspiration to artists, activists, ecologists and anyone who is invested in the wellbeing of the Earth. Each of her pieces is powerful in its own right, and her messages cover a wide range of very important themes. Reyes has a few sculptures throughout Wisconsin, and her visit to Lawrence has impacted me to go view her other projects and experience them for myself.