After graduating from Fay in 2008, Sydney Mortara went to Williston Northampton School, where she developed a strong interest in art and photography. Assuming that she would continue to focus on photography, Sydney applied to art schools and was excited to head to the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.
It was there that Sydney decided to shift her focus. “I had studied conceptual art-making through the form of a photo lens for six years, and I found that it was limiting my storytelling,” she says.
Sydney started working on textile design and specifically quilting. “I found a huge connection to the craft of hand-making and sewing and the lineage of the craft. I like the idea of contemporizing the old and exploring time as less linear and more of something we carry with us. Sewing is a great way to connect to my mother, my grandmother, and my great grandmother.”
Each of Sydney’s quilts is a labor of love, taking anywhere from ten to one hundred hours to complete. Since graduating from art school. Sydney has also been exploring printmaking and monoprints, one-of-a- kind prints that can be completed in about five hours. She used the two years after graduation to develop her portfolio with the goal of applying to an artist residency.
Sydney also decided that she needed to be living with other artists and learning from them. Living in Lowell, Mass., where there a strong history of textiles, Sydney became aware of Western Avenue, an artist’s community where artists in a variety of media live in lofts and studios, sharing their creativity and skills with one another and the larger community. Once a month, the Western Avenue community opens its lofts to members of the public, who can come and peruse the spaces like museum galleries.
Of course, COVID changed all that. “It has been both fun and impactful to see how this community has banded together,” notes Sydney. At first, everyone shifted their art to social media, displaying their work online and hosting video sneak peeks. Within a matter of weeks, many of the artists were scrambling to get websites up and running. But still, something was missing from the experience. “So, we started hosted socially distanced and masked outdoor marketplaces,” says Sydney. “It’s been a fun adventure, and out of necessity, the community has become so much closer and better organized.”
Sydney maintains her day job in IT and her studio practice at night, and she is still finding time to study user interface and design. “I find that my technical work helps me innovate in my studio practice. They are very complementary,” says Sydney. “I’m pivoting my tech career towards design so there is more creative energy in my day-to-day work life, and I will always continue my studio practice because they are equally important parts of my life and career.”
You can see more of Sydney's work at www.sydneymortara.com.