Confronting The Unconscious: Sydnei SmithJordan Interview

“The main impetus of my work is liberating one’s mind, self, and society. I reach deep into all that is true in myself and my unconscious mind, whether it is an experience or a dream.”

Sydnei SmithJordan’s work draws from her experiences rising above multiple obstacles and triumphing over much adversity in her life. Her art, self-described as “American Pop Fusion”, is investigative and pulled from a deeper psychological place. “The main impetus of my work is liberating one’s mind, self, and society. I reach deep into all that is true in myself and my unconscious mind, whether it is an experience or a dream,” says Sydnei. Indeed, the figures and faces of the artist’s creations seem liberated; they confront the audience with an unabashed display of character. 

sydnei smothjordan
Cherish, 2017 | Mixed Media on Paper (fragment)

Could you define “Pop Fusion” for us, in terms of your own practice?

Pop Fusion is a blend of drawing and/or illustration with a twist of pop. I use any and all traditional mediums in one piece to communicate with the viewer as opposed to just oil, acrylic or pen and ink. You may find them all in one piece. This is pop fusion.

Sydnei SmithJordan
Dear America, 2017 | Mixed Media

Making use of typeface in your visuals is a unique and bold move. How do you choose the text you use? Is it related to the subject of the work?

Yes, the type is related to the piece. It is used to guide the viewer or explain the base. Many times I have enjoyed discussing the symbolism in my work. The type helps the communication between the piece and the viewer.

How do you develop the compositions?

I study people and architecture. The architecture is used in the abstractions. I love the expressions that people make and the way the body moves. A blank face is beautiful. Look into the eyes to capture the emotion. I enjoy seeing casual interactions also. I go places just to watch people.

As a child, you had to be removed from your home due to abuse. When you became older, you spent some time learning art as therapy to deal with those experiences. Can you talk a bit about art therapy?

I had no outlet during that time in my life. I was suicidal and had been labeled a cutter. When I wasn’t outright trying to kill myself, I used cutting to release pain because that’s all I knew. I was accustomed to being punished when I did something and when I didn’t. So all I knew was punishment.
My mom was an artist and I enjoyed watching her draw. I envied her talent. I began doodling to see if I could draw. Those doodles became abstractions. I began to use the lines to create secret messages to be decoded by my therapists and others. Once I found that easy, I moved to faces because it was more challenging. I use the eyes to communicate emotion.

As an adult, I have taught disabled children. Yes, art works! My own grandchild used art to communicate her troubles and has made large strides. Art is life and life is art. That is all there is.

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To what degree do you think art can make a difference in society?

Art is extremely important in society. The easiest way that I can explain it is… my mom said that if you can’t communicate with a person then write them a letter. Communication is of utmost importance. When I couldn’t write, I drew. It is an unspoken truth. A way of communicating anything.

Do you have a favorite work?

Rebirth and Africa are my favorites. Africa is about being proud to be a strong woman of color. Rebirth is my journey.

Overcoming abuse, life in the system and psychological trauma, the N. Carolina native showed the true strength of her spirit and talent when she went on to attend several art schools, including Rhode Island School of Design. Sydnei SmithJordan lives and works in New Jersey.

Her select artworks can be viewed at the gallery until September 22nd, and online at


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