Inside the Artist’s Sketchbook: Sydney Jill Watnick ’14

"Pink is a very Sydney color in my mind," says Watnick on her first-semester installation piece, pictured above.

Devoted Thrill readers know sophomore studio art-American studies double major Sydney Watnick ’14 as the girl who generously tells us all what to do on weekends. (In my heart, it will forever be “at the Kokes afterparty… and the Kappa Rappa Jamma.”) As I discovered in her 3rd-floor Bexley studio, however, Watnick’s epic knowledge of “where it’s at” transcends the Kenyon party scene, encompassing Kenyon art scene. And obviously, her art transcends the vivid pages of her sketchbook.

“I’m very into fabric right now,” Watnick confessed as she strode around her studio yesterday afternoon to strains of Regina Spektor and Rilo Kiley, pointing out various projects she’s worked on this year. One piece in particular illustrated her point: a set of four pairs of tights that hung from the wall, each one stretched, stuffed and splattered with paint. “I chose a different artist for inspiration for  each one- Joan Mitchell, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mondrian and Rauschenberg.”

The tights. And a glimpse of the artist in (frenzied) motion.

“I’m inspired by iconic imagery- hearts, stars, my initials, flowers,” Watnick explained, pointing out another fabric installation piece, a model of her initials made from pieces of old clothing that Watnick repurposed after realizing “how much stuff I’ve accumulated here, that I literally never wear anymore.”

"SJW" by SJW, materials courtesy of SJW.

The “SJW” motif is also recurrent in Watnick’s pen-and-ink work, which I got a chance to linger over when she brought out her sketchbook.

Watnick’s sketchbook was just as compelling as her installation work- even its inside cover, resplendent with Elmo stickers, glitter glue and a giant “Obama 2012” sticker, was hard to ignore.

A few pages from Watnick’s sketchbook, along with its inside cover, which may double as a glimpse into the artist’s inner psyche.

Watnick’s art has been displayed around campus, from a multimedia installation in Olin earlier this year that recorded Kenyon’s reactions to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to a large mixed-media painting in the bookstore. “[The bookstore piece] is being taken down this week…I really want to put it in my New Apt. next year, but I don’t have anywhere to store it,” mused Watnick ruefully as we flipped through pages of her class notes.

Class notes? Bursts of artistic inspiration? Doodles of fish? Only Watnick knows for sure.

When I commented that there didn’t seem to be much of a divide between her sketchbook’s pages and her academic notes, Watnick laughed “Yeah, that’s the problem- there’s no divide at all!” With a body of work this varied and creative, why should there be?

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