I had a very turbulent childhood. I grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive household. I am the oldest of four children. I was a very young teenaged mother victimized by sexual assault and abuse. I grew up in the North Carolina Baptist Children’s Home from age 14-22 deemed a ward of the court. I was told that I could never go to college because I’m not smart enough and who would even take the time with me.
"I was an orphan with two living Christian parents. “She’s an under-achiever”, that’s what they told me. An under achiever unworthy of love."
For all these things I thank them. I am the first in any generation on both sides of my family to walk down the aisles and receive my High School diploma. When the viewer looks at my body map this is just some of the things they will see. The main impetus of my work is the communication of explaining the idea of liberating one’s mind, self and society. To see what we don't want to see. To explain the unexplainable. To make tangible that which seemed unattainable. My body map reaches deep into all that is true within myself and my subconscious mind; be they experience, dreamscapes or past.
My pain, My joy, My body - No one leaves this earth without experiencing tremendous pain and extreme joy. Truer than life to me; manifested in my work is the exploration of examining religion, heritage, culture, sex, abuse and political life. I paint both what I have seen and would like to see. I strive to enhance the things which appeal to me in each subject. By voiding certain colors, I rearrange the world as I see it by making other colors the focus.
I began to have dreams of my upending death. I was very traumatized with fear. I began to assess and re-evaluate my life and its purpose. I began to contemplate forgiveness and how in the process of forgiving others, we gain forgiveness for ourselves. The day of surgery came. I made out a will and testament about my paintings and what they meant.
I awakened to find my right arm numb. I complained of this right away, but my complaint fell on deaf ears. Days later, the arm was sensitive to the touch. The truth of the matter was that I had been dropped in the O.R. while being transferred to another gurney to go to recovery. I also found out later during reconstructive surgery that my lymph nodes had been removed without my consent. My nerves had been ripped through. During the reconstruction; my new surgeon discovered that I had been butchered during my mastectomy. There was a large hole under my right arm big enough for his fist to fit in. The edges that should have been straight were jagged. The reconstruction was to be an hour, but lasted four hours.
As I lay in bed for weeks, my depression became more and more. I felt hopeless and alone. I was a right handed artist who could not paint. My life was over. I had not prayed in a while. I began to pray to the God of my understanding to help bring me through because I was incapable of doing it myself. I went into my studio and began to paint 5X5 pieces. I lowered my easel as far as I could to accommodate the lack of
motion, but the arm would tire in seconds. Every day I painted till sweat poured and I would cry. I went from seconds at a time to minutes and then hours. I graduated to 10X10. Although the quality wasn’t the same as before my surgery, I was painting and creating. So much had happened in my life from the time I had agreed to do a body map until now.
"There was so many things I needed to say and yet the limited use of my arm posed a real challenge."
Determined to fulfill my commitment, I began to use collage to accommodate the need to finish my piece without leading to arm stiffness for days on end. I began by gathering important items symbolizing significant points in my life from childhood to adulthood. I then gathered maps of all the states that I have lived in and shredding them into a work of art. My Body Map took months to complete. The only parts that are not there were two recent surgeries involving reconstruction.
Today, I am painting more and more. The canvases are getting larger by the month. Most of all thru forgiveness, I am getting physically and emotionally stronger each day.
Sydnei Smithjordan likes to refer to herself as a romantic surrealist with over twenty-five years of experience in various fields of art. Educated in fine art at College of Design, Art and Architecture at Santa Monica College under the mentorship of Ronn Davis; she has also studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design.