Mary Syring is an artist based in San Francisco. Her work is “a perusal of the surreal magic word that is constantly whirling around in my head”. We are delighted to feature her newest works in her solo exhibition Witches in the Bramble. She has also curated Spirit Board: A Ouija Group Exhibition, featuring over twenty brilliant artists from the Bay Area and beyond.
Interview by Waiton Farrell
WF: Hi Mary! How have you been doing during shelter-in-place?
MS: Waiton! Well it has been A DAY to say the least. I’ve been hanging in there. I’ve always been a night owl, and have been filling those with movies, podcasts and a fair amount of reading while the rest of the world sleeps. As an introvert I never thought I’d miss people but here we are.
WF: What references did you draw from as you created this show?
MS: My interest in the occult runs deep and I’ve always been obsessed with 1920’s halloween decor, and costumes. That vintage rich contrast of black ink on orange always instantly gets me excited for my favorite season. I have a whole pinterest page of art deco halloween greeting cards I turn to for inspiration or just to fawn over while working.
WF: The stark contrast of your abyss-like blacks with an almost archival orange are mesmerizing. What tools did you use to create these haunting scenes containing such intricate details?
MS: Ink ink and more ink! Micron pens, india ink washes, and white gel ink pens are my drugs of choice.
WF: You have a strong presence on social media. It is always a pleasure to see your works in progress. How did you grow such a consistent following?
MS: I feel it’s important to interact with the awesome people that follow and support your work, (in fact I’ve made some wonderful friendships that way!) so I like to post as often as possible as well as share tidbits of my weird interests and life. I think the key to growing your online presence is to be real and genuine to yourself and to others. Just do you.
WF: Your pen and ink art has translated beautifully not only to canvas and frame but to candles and perfume. How did you expand your vision into an apothecary-like assortment that encapsulates your multi-faceted creativity?
MS: Thank you! Scent has always been an important part of my personal creative aesthetic. If you’re ever over at my studio while I’m working you’ll bet there’s some sort of candle burning nearby. I have a scent for every project. I started out making aromatherapy candles years ago just for myself, and one day thought “Why don’t I give this a go with my art?” and from there it slowly grew into what you see today. I’m here for it!
WF: As you developed as an artist, who were you most inspired by? What do you now want to pass on to developing artists who respect and admire your style and expression?
MS: Growing up, I was always admiring several artists from the golden age of illustration. Artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, Arthur Rackham and Kay Nielson etc.. I had several books on folk lore that many of those illustrators created pieces for. I also had an obsession with collecting countless old fashion plates and etchings from the Victorian era.
My advice would be never to compare yourself to other artists, I see that all too often and have done it myself. I know it can be hard sometimes but it’s unnecessary as we’re all on our own paths creatively. Simply just go with the flow of where your creativity takes you and don’t fight it. You’ll be amazed, trust me. And don’t put yourself in a box, feel the freedom to experiment with mediums while searching for your style.
WF: As you assembled your coven of fantastical artists for the Spirit Board group exhibition, what factors did you seek and how did you narrow down your selections?
MS: My main focus was either artists obsessed with darkness or artists I’d seen touch on occultism but not as often in their work. I wanted to see the contrast of opinions on the popular spirit board that I’m personally so in love with. Everyone did such a fantastic job! I’m absolutely blown away by the collection.
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