We had the good fortune of connecting with Sydney Croskery and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sydney, how do you think about risk?
The funny thing about risk is it doesn’t always look the way you think it will; what is risky for one person might be laughably easy for another.
That was the case in my instance when moving from conceptual realism into abstraction. For the last few decades, I’ve looked at abstraction at best as pretty or design-y, and at worst a macho penis-waving capitalist symbol; either way, I was not intrigued. Of course, this was my bias, letting a thin slice taint my view of the whole genre.
Whatever the medium, my work has always involved social commentary, and most of my previous projects had some sort of content or parameters established before I even began to make the physical work. I would say 65% of the project was developed in my brain, leaving room for about 35% in surprises and spontaneity in process. It felt comforting to create a world first, then let the objects grow inside that world.
In a process that culminated during lockdown, my brain simply short circuited and I ceased to have anything to say – I began to recognize the sanity in not attempting to extract logic from an illogical time. There began a truly uncomfortable transition into abstraction; instead of starting with a 65% crutch, I started with 0%. The beginning was rough, not only in the practice of working in a new way, but as a challenge to my ego- how would I make something that showed my decades of skill and dedication as well as my intellect? It was like previously walking on a littered sidewalk and sidestepping to avoid the objects, to walking on a free and open path. I let go of the need to prove myself, and in it I found different ways to embrace rigor and painterly skill. More importantly the work felt freer and open, able to move with the passage of time instead of being stuck in a particular moment.
In society, we tend to define risk in terms of financials, extreme gestures in lifestyle or to our physicality, but at this time I’ve learned the value in risk-taking exercises that are small and internal. They yield a great reward with very little downside.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Professionally speaking, being an artist is akin to online dating. It’s incredibly difficult, there’s a lot of fits and starts, and tons of rejection. But if you want something, you keep on keeping on with a focus on personal success and happiness, supporting your colleagues, seeking out those that want you back and moving on from the ones that don’t without taking it personally. The stars will align ultimately, and in the mean time the gift is being an artist.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
About ten years ago, a dear friend Teresa visited me from Chicago, and we had the best sat, and one that was emblematic of what LA can be. It was the 4th of July, and I was living on 24th and Broadway in Santa Monica. We walked to Montana Ave. and ate lunch, as I remember eating deviled eggs and drinking rose champagne. We walked west towards the beach, buying cookies from kids holding a bake sale to benefit their older neighbor who had broken his arm skateboarding. At the beach, we enjoyed the sunshine, had life examining conversations, swam, relaxed and saw dolphins. When evening hit we strolled, ate sushi, and went across the street on Ocean Ave to watch fireworks on the bluff. We concluded the night with a nightcap at Chez Jay (est. 1959), a nostalgic place for me as I used to go with my Dad who had passed several years earlier. In talking to the bartender (who was also from Chicago) it turned out my friend’s also recently deceased father was his beloved theater professor in college. The only thing comforting about losing someone is knowing they were loved by others, and this exchange bore that out. We went home feeling electric. Every 4th of July we text each other, wishing each other a happy anniversary of our magical day. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people to shoutout to, but I’ll begin with my mom Sharon, who always had art books at home and took us to museums all the time as kids. My brother Jonas is an incredibly talented artist too, so it’s pretty obvious she was originator of all this. Being in groups or partnerships with other artists has also been pivotal in my life; currently I’m extremely grateful to be in a casual artist group with Virginia Broersma, Claudia Parducci, Emily Blythe Jones and Debra Broz, which acts as idea incubator/critique/gab session/therapy support group.