How much more quickly might Van Gogh or Michelangelo have ascended the throne of greatness had there previously existed a worldwide network designed for the promotion of aspiring artists? Where students in the amateur circuit still looking for their big break could promote their work while simultaneously endorsing the talent of others? Well, based upon the experience of Sydney Kim ’06, such a network could make the dreams of any artist-hopeful a reality.
Kim has yet to slit an earlobe in frustration or paint a single church ceiling, but the up-and-coming artist has seen her work become the focus of attention like never before, thanks to a contest involving the online global art community STUART, a six-month-old Facebook-like project founded by London’s Saatchi Gallery to encourage support for artists by artists.
The events leading up to Kim’s newfound fame all began around mid-March, when The Independent, a well-known British newspaper, held a reader competition in which nonprofessional artists wrote in, explaining what five creations then displayed in STUART users’ profiles would comprise the reader’s ideal “mini-collection.”
Winners of this competition received cash prizes, which they were instructed to spend on the works of those STUART artists they had named, thereby fortifying a circle of financial and psychological support for the young creators. Abbas Akbari William, the first-place winner in the contest, received 3,000 pounds (approximately $6,000), and before long William had contacted Kim with an interest in buying her small, abstract, thin-line drawing entitled “Foundation #3” William paid 100 pounds.
“I was really surprised when I found out about it, when Akbari e-mailed me,” Kim said. Her initial optimism was coated with caution, however, as she suspected she was being drawn into some cruel Internet hoax. But after Googling William’s name, she was relieved to find the newspaper article that named him the competition’s chief finisher.
“I was really happy, considering I made my first sale while still in college,” Kim said.
“Foundation #3” was created last winter as Kim was in the midst of producing a series of similar drawings, many of which embody her views on interpersonal relationships and the emotions and thoughts that can either enliven or destroy them. “A lot of my work is based on internal concepts and are expressed through intuitive, tenuous lines made on clean white paper,” Kim explained. “The Foundation series has its roots in the idea of structure and groundwork in terms of … connections between people.”
Kim asked herself many questions in creating “Foundation #3,” most of them about the fragility, strength and potential of the basis on which many things are built, she said. In the end these questions shaped the psychological framework of the feature work, which with striking, simple lines possesses a meaning that is, by design, open to interpretation. Such definitive vagueness is the trademark of Kim’s current favorite artist, Cy Twombly, an accomplished American abstract artist.
“I enjoy fresh takes on abstraction, particularly when they explore [the] intangible nuances of human beings,” Kim said. “That is what really moves me.”
For this reason, Kim also holds the work of Siobhan Liddell, one of this term’s studio art guest artists, in high regard.
For the Dartmouth senior, the science of the aesthetic has always played a central role in her life. “I began drawing at a very young age, and my parents always made sure to expose me to visual arts,” Kim said. “[Although] I didn’t begin seriously thinking about pursuing art as something to do … until I came to college, no one was surprised when I made the decision to be an art major. It’s something I’m absolutely compelled to do.”
This creative zeal pervades Kim’s online journal, Paper Match, which she has maintained since December 2006 by archiving various personal works belonging to diverse media. The blog houses vivid colorsplash photography and pictures of drawings on tracing paper, along with photos of sculptures made of a wide range of material, from wire to plaster. Poetic “Polaroid diptychs” highlight the environmental subtleties of the “visually interesting” Panarchy building, where Kim lives with her friends and significant other. Indeed, more than anything, Kim’s art is a reflection of her world.
With plans to be a studio art intern next year, Kim will soon be working full-time in the field she loves most as a teacher’s assistant or general aide to the department’s faculty — appropriate employment considering how well she believes Dartmouth’s resources and “close-knit, supportive and experienced” community of studio art professors have prepared her for the pursuit of a profession in art.
“Several professors really helped guide and push me down the right paths,” Kim said. “Some helped me better realize what my work was about by changing the way I viewed visual arts as a medium and what it meant to me.”
Though she admitted that she sometimes wishes she had chosen a college “in a more populated and artistically active city,” Kim genuinely believes that Dartmouth “has equipped me rather well to thrive as an artist.”