Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Sydney G. James



Sydney G. James






Detroit-bred and based visual artist and muralist Sydney G. James earned her BFA at the College for Creative Studies in 2001 and began her career as an Art Director in advertising. Sydney moved to Los Angeles in 2004 to work as a visual artist in the film and television industry and earned her master’s degree in secondary education.
Returning to Detroit in 2011, Sydney has become a leading creative voice in Southeast Michigan. Exploring themes of the racial and gender positioning of the black woman in America as “last” or “least among others” in society, has been the central theme in Sydney’s work recently. Her portraits and murals seek to reposition this narrative of the black woman’s visibility and importance bringing them to the forefront of the conversation. Influenced by the artists Barkley L. Hendricks, Hubert Massey, Jenny Saville and the Afri-COBRA collective, Sydney’s art expands figurative painting with bold brushwork, colors and imagery.

James has displayed her art at MOCAD, the Charles H. Wright Museum, Inner State Gallery, PLAYGROUND DETROIT, Collective Detroit Gallery, Detroit Artist Market, Red Bull House of Art, and Janice Charach gallery. She has completed public murals in Detroit for the 2015-2018 Murals in the Market (recognized by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the world’s best), New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Pow Wow Hawaii, Pow Wow Long Beach, Pow Wow Worcester, and Accra, Ghana. Sydney is the recipient of the prestigous 2017 Kresge Fellowship award. She recently created artwork at Essence Fest 2019 for Ford Motor Company, and is featured as one of the campaign faces of The Lip Bar cosmetics.

Her mural of Malice Green, “The Malice Green Mural Monument,” appears on the side of the Hamilton-Tucker Gallery on the border of Detroit and Hamtramck. Most recently, she completed The Girl with the D Earring, a mural on the Chroma Building in Detroit. She has also painted murals in New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Ghana.


Artist’s Statement

Through utter shock, through grief, through disgust, through fear, through ANGER, through heartbreak…through it all, We work. Through this chaos, we work. For our families, our communities, our sanctuaries, we work. Through exhaustion, we work. Through a pandemic, we are working. We work to fill voids. In our minds, we work to fill the “Void” but we often don’t recognize the “voids” that that very work creates. The chaos surrounds us, yet we push through the heavy weight of all the woes of the hamster wheel of days.
Watch Me Work is a celebration of Black Women who get it done! From the event planning Zoom mommy to the USPS mail lady, we work. The world watches and we work. The world turns away, we work. Even those of us who sit around all day and manage to make it to the next day safely, it took work. Through the daily attacks on the pigmented people of the world, we work. We work. We work. I work.
–Sydney G. James