Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sydney A. Cross: A Passion for Printmaking

Syd Cross in her studio

Syd Cross is one of my closest friends. Our friendship began 28 years ago when she was hired by Clemson University to teach printmaking where she continues teaching today. She has always been passionate about printmaking and dedicated to her students and her work. Syd is also devoted to her cats, is an avid gardener and enthusiastic horsewoman. These subjects often appear in her prints along with topics relating to women, culture, current issues and politics.

Syd's resume is impressive and I don't want to leave anything out. With this in mind, I'm going to present her questions and answer's first and then present a more lengthy bio. I want to thank her for sharing this work with me for my blog as several of these are new as of this week.

SUBTRACTION----Woodcut, 24" x 35"


QUESTION: Syd, I have known you for many years and I know that you are very dedicated to your work and are consistent in your efforts. Please share with us something of your studio routine and something about your methodology in the studio at the point you begin a new work.

SYD: There are a couple of ways that I get started in the studio.

Historically, the method I have used most in generating work begins with an ongoing archive of AP wire and magazine photography that I have amassed over the years. I will roll out tracing paper and begin sketching, using those archives as source material. I will composite figures and spaces from this activity. I may sustain this sketching exercise for a few days, which results in a collection of drawings that are often disparate from each other. At this point I usually begin cutting the sketches apart and composing them with one another to find unexpected relationships. In doing this I find themes start to be suggested. The overlapping of the images even when pragmatically stacked to consolidate table space can prompt new meanings that I find intriguing. Another methodology that I have also started exploring is collaging of the actual source material rather than drawing it first. I have found this method inspires a different implementation of process than the hand drawn compositions.

SEQUENCE---Woodcut, 24" x 35"

QUESTION; How did you choose printmaking as your medium?

SYD: Initially, printmaking was attractive to me because I was seduced by the expertise one needed to have command of in order to execute it, particularly lithography---in the mid seventies when I was a student there was a status connected to having this expertise. More importantly, however, printmaking was an extension of drawing, which I loved, but if offered many more possibilities. There is still nothing as wonderful to draw on as a Bavarian Lime stone.

SIFT---Lithograph & Screenprint, 20" x 15"

QUESTION: Your work often appears to tell a story. If that is correct, is it important to you that the viewer interpret the work in a specific way?

SYD: My work is meant to be read, hopefully, in a lot of different ways. If everyone understood the same thing from my pieces or only saw one thing I think I would be disappointed. Having said that, there are specific cues that I insert in the work to prompt a subject for dialogue.

UPDATE---Lithograph & Screenprint, 15" x 20"

QUESTION: With all the constant and immediate communication our society has today, what role does the visual artists have to play?

SYD: I am old fashioned--I don't think the role is much different for artists today. I believe artists serve to show us the questions we should consider asking, make statements about the world around them and even share their vision or version of beauty or the sublime. I also believe that quality of craft is still important no matter how esoteric the conceptual nature of the work may seem.

I do think there is a lot of art that attempts to address 'constant and immediate communication of our society today' or poses questions about it that possesses so little intrinsic visual or artistic investment that it ends up reinforcing the very thing it hopes to critique OR fails to qualify as art.

FAME -- Linoleum Cut, 10" x12"

QUESTION: Please step back in time and tell us whose studios you would like to visit.

SYD: I would love to see the difference between the studio of Bernini and that of Michaelangelo. I would also like to observe the etching studio of Stanley William Hayter, Rembrandt, or Durer.

MARKET-- Lithograph, 9" x 8"

QUESTION: Is there any major project you have in mind that you have not yet attempted?

SYD: Yes. What are they?----that keeps changing. I have whole series of painting and sculptures (believe it or not) that I hope to take on. My biggest challenge is working through a series of work in a timely manner that is productive and intense rather than scattered and stalled as often happens when you teach full time.

GALLERY--- Screenprint, 10" x 8"


Sydney A. Cross, received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Northern Arizona University in 1977 and her Masters of Fine Arts from Arizona State University in 1980. She has been teaching printmaking, drawing and design at Clemson University for the past 28 years. Always professionally active, she became the vice president and then President of the Southern Graphics Council (1996-2000), which is the largest printmaking society in North America. In 2000 she was awarded the Provost scholarly Achievement Award and that same year she received the President's Commission on the Status of Women's Outstanding Faculty Award. In 2005 at the SGC conference held in Washington D.C. Sydney was selected to be an Alumni Distinguished Professor at Clemson University.

She has also been awarded residencies at Frans Massareel Graphic Center in Kasterlee, Belgium and the Virginia Center of Creative Arts in Mt. San Angelo, VA. She has given numerous panel presentations at regional, national, and international conferences and symposiums, including the Southeastern College Art Association in Richmond, VA, Print Odyssey conference in Cortona Italy, 2003 National Association for Humanities Conference in Austin, TX., and SGC conferences held in Richmond, VA, Morgantown, WV and Cincinnati, OH.

As an artist she has participated in several important portfolio exchanges, including Suite X, printer's Almanac, Tempe Suite, and Imaages 1990 and Drawn to Stone, a celebration of Two Hundred Years of Lithography. Her work can be found in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Smithsonian Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA, Fogg Art Museum, Aambridge, MA, the Museum of Fine Art, Antwerp, Belgium, and the Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Her work has been exhibited regionally, Nationally and internationally. In addition to solo exhibitions, she has had work included in the 25th Bradley National Print and Drawing Exhibition, Peoria, IL., Parkside National Small Print Exhibition, Kenosha, WI, "Hand Pulled Prints III", Stonemetal Press, San Antonia, TX, "Mixed Media" at the Slidell Cultural Center in Louisiana, Paper in Particular, Columbia College, Columbia, MO, and the Irene Leach Memorial Exhibition, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA.

Thank you Syd for sharing your beautiful work. Terry


  1. Enjoyed the interview and new work. Thank you Terry and Syd. I plan to integrate this blog and several others into my classes this fall in an effort to share more inside info with students...and I want to encourage them to write and make comments as a way of learning and improving their writing and communication skills.


  2. Fascinating! And her work is so vivid, so intense. I love it!