This is a video essay about how privilege and disadvantage begins with tracking school-aged kids, and how that leads to disempowerment and disenfranchisement in adulthood. Last year I added my National Merit status to my LinkedIn profile. That sounds like a no-brainer, but I am retired from dayjob where I worked mostly as a paralegal and was told by more than supervisor that I shouldn’t talk about being an artist at work, let alone have “Art” on my resume. As soon as I knew I was not going to be a paralegal anymore, I stripped my CV of any references to dayjob and filled it with my 40+ years of arts related experience and education.Because I associate being a National Merit scholar with overachieving and ambition in the dayjob world – and have not wanted other artists or curators to associate that with me – I was embarrassed about it in the art world. After I retired and had some perspective on the fact that I did what “they” can do and what I can do too, I felt more integrated.For the first time in my almost 30 years of marriage, I started telling my husband about what it was like to be one of the smart kids who received special treatment; and watched other less gifted kids get classified, sorted and marginalized. I was very aware of that happening. I thought it was wrong then and I think it is part of the reason that our culture now is so fractured.Banner: Still,VOICE, A PERFORMANCE ART MOVIE (2016) by Sylviatoyindustries.Originally published on LinkedIn.
After weeks of work, I was thrilled by a recent hike B. and I took to Point Reyes National Seashore, a spectacular stretch of the California coast and a very special place for us. After winding through woodlands of rushing streams fresh from winter rains, the Bear Valley Trail meets Arch Rock. Here, the North American Plate meets the Pacific Plate, and juts out into the Pacific Ocean.
A flock of White-crowned sparrows came out of hiding in some nearby manzanita bushes, to explore the bread (and wine) that we brought for our picnic. These tame birds were clearly used to human visitors. A spout, then a slash of back, signaled a whale out at sea.
Ravens, two clearly paired, softly called to each other on a nearby rock outcropping. They stood close together, groomed one another, and fed each other. “With such affectionate behavior,” B. said, “There’s…
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This is my third character improvisation/splitscreen tech rehearsal of A Pilgrim and The Old Woman who befriends him and hires him as a gardener. In this new outdoor scene, A Pilgrim busks on the sidewalk with the passersby, except for The Old Woman, shown as anonymous figures who are as oblivious to A Pilgrim as he is to them. I spent much of my worktime last week studying and thinking about how cinematography is a storytelling element. A Pilgrim is a strange little man who sings but never speaks. Like anyone else, however, he has a world view. It occurred to me that the best way to show his character is to construct scenes through his world view in which most people whom he encounters are anonymous figures who are as oblivious to A Pilgrim as he is to them. CREDO, A Pilgrim is a video performance in progress about a drifter who goes from town to town earning money as a gardener and as a busker, mostly singing Negro Spirituals. He has very few possessions but the most precious one is an invisible box containing his spiritual advisors, the miniature heads of a nun, a monk and an ancient priest.
Source: A Pilgrim’s World View
Acting and technical improvisation for characters in progress: A Pilgrim and his pets, the tiny disembodied heads of a nun, a monk and an ancient priest. I am at the very beginning of working out the relationships and conflicts in the story. A Pilgrim is a drifter who goes from town to town earning money as a gardener and as a busker, mostly singing Negro Spirituals. He has very few possessions but the most precious one is an invisible box containing his spiritual advisors, the miniature heads of Sister, Brother and Father Bobbings. All of us have precious things, knick-knacks (trinkets, gewgaws, trifles, baubles, tchotchke) that seem worthless to everyone else.
Source: Knickknacks on His Knee
Sylviatoyindustries (Sylvia Toy St. Louis)
VIDEO ARTIST/INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER
Award-winning actor/filmmaker: LA Neo Noir Film Fest, Grand Jury award; LA Underground Film Fest, Honorable Mention; Creative Arts Film Fest, Honorable Mention/Cinematography. Internationally exhibiting video art/film since 2008. Professional theatre artist. Professional sculptor. Subject of article by Cathrin Gordon: “Artist Retrospective: The Unsung Genius of Sylvia Toy (bit.ly/0711SToyReviewAtMed).” B.A., Art/English, University of Nebraska/Lincoln. National Achievement Scholar. I studied videography with Darrell Holdaway.
VisualContainerTV, Italy (2017)
The Videoperformance, Art Web Gallery (2017)
Klanghaus, Oakland (2016)
Creative Arts Film Festival (2016)
Bucharest ShortCut CineFest (2016)
Festival Miden, Greece (2016)
L.A. Neo Noir Novel, Film & Script Festival, Grand Jury award (2016)
Fanboy Festival (2016)
Yami-Ichi, Tate Modern (London, 2016)
HearteartH, Europe (2015, 2016, 2017)
Eisentrager-Howard Gallery, Nebraska (2016)
Int’l Video Art Exchange, Marrakech (2016)
CM Projects, London (2015)
The Selfie Show, Detroit (2015)
F.I.V.E. FEELINGS, Int’l (2014)
Time is Love Screening, Int’l (2014)
Human Emotion Project (2013)
SKY ARTE HD TV, Italy (2013-14)
STREETVIDEOART©/Larcade Gallery, Paris (2012, 2013)
KAPAS Film Festival, Spain (2012)
Artist, OART TV
CologneOff, Int’l (2011)
Altered Esthetics, Minneapolis (2008, 2010)
AWARDS, RESIDENCIES AND SOLO EXHIBITIONS
Creative Arts Film Festival, Honorable Mention, Cinematography (2017)
Los Angeles Underground Film Forum, Honorable Mention (2016)
L.A. Neo Noir Novel, Film & Script Festival, Grand Jury award (2016)
Los Medanos College Art Gallery, Pittsburgh, CA, Solo Exhibition (2008)
Sargent Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, Solo Exhibition (2005)
Lorraine Hansberry Theater Emerging Artist (1994)
Artist Residency, University of Nebraska/Lincoln (1998-2003)
Artist Residency, Jewish Museum San Francisco (1995)
Frierson Playwright Fellow, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, San Francisco (1993)
Reuben Sanders Gallery, Wichita KS, Honorable Mention (1984)
July 11, 2016 http://bit.ly/0711SToyReviewAtMed
Sept 1, 2011. http://vip.newmediafest.org/?page_id=674 (Artist Interview)
Aug 1, 2008 http://alteredesthetics.phanfare.com/2567368
ARTIST NETWORK DATABASE and.nmartproject.net/?p=4318
“Affect” is a movie about manic depressive’s experience of psychosis as she shops around for a therapist. Mania and a psychotic voice, which often manifests itself as a clownlike, mischievous presence, continually interfere with, interrupt and sabotage the woman’s attempts to communicate with therapist after therapist. 22 minutes.
The Blue Lady (2015)
A revisionist tale about slavery from a female point of view. A plantation owner is in the final stages of syphillis and his screams are heard in different parts of the house by his wife and two house slaves. As the story unfolds, it is clear that noone in the house will mourn his death. Exhibited in the 1974-1978 UNL Alumni Exhibition, Eisentrager- Howard Art Gallery, Lincoln NE (Summer 2016). 40 minutes.
Indigo Lady (2011)
Directed by Sylvia Toy. Starring Sapna Gandhi, Steve Lewis, Nidal Yousef, Nicholas Jackson, Rebecca Longworth, Nima Nejad and Diana Slampyak. Art Director, Tyler Cohen. Technical Advisor, Michael Lewis. “Indigo Lady” is a fictional interview movie about a Nebraska ranching empire heiress who murders her husband, butchers him the way her father taught her to butcher a hog, and turns him into ham. 49 minutes.
Lucy, the First Human (2013)
The setting is a barren, shadowy, womb-like or cave-like environment. There is only one character in the movie. She is based on the hominid, Australopithecus afarensis. What the first human would do, think, feel, and how it would develop – like an infant, mostly sleeping in the beginning until she gradually is drawn out of her self-absorption into the real world? 27 minutes.
Passages, a Myth (2015)
The setting is the firmament from which three sibling deities rule the world. When the youngest sister of the king of the gods kills a human during a dispute over the humans using language in violation of the laws of the gods, the king of the gods absorbs the human corpse into his body and becomes pregnant. There is no dialogue. There are inter- titles preceding each scene. The humans are portrayed in animated sequences. The scenes are green-screened with sky footage as a background. Featuring African American actress and performance artist, Sylvia Toy St. Louis. PASSAGES, A MYTH: DISCOVERY OF THE PREGNANCY OF THE KING was selected for Festival Miden, 2016. 24 minutes.
A Butoh inspired performance art short film by African-American filmmaker, Sylvia Toy. A mute, solemn priestess dressed in white conducts a birth ritual in a room draped in white to an unseen congregation, while strains of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 fill the stark room. As she silently performs her sacred duty, her actions are projected in a split screen by a shadow of herself. 9 minutes.
running out (2013)
Cinema verite, a fly-on-the-wall short that opens with a woman planning to kill herself. We hear water running and the camera follows the sound to a bathroom. We see a woman’s bare feet on a drab, faded bathroom mat. We watch the woman draw a glass of water and light a votive candle. As the story unfolds, suicidality itself looms as the central character. Based on true stories. Directed by Michael Lewis. 27 minutes.
The Spinster (2014)
THE SPINSTER is a performance art/video art single-channel movie about an office worker who lives to draw in the classical style. She is obsessed with the Mannerist painter, Jacopo Pontormo. ‘Pontormo’s Diary’ is the only thing she has on her IPod. She lives alone with art supplies and rolls and rolls of paper. She mostly eats eggs & salad, just like her spiritual mentor, Pontormo. 26 minutes.
THE HARPY by Sylvia Toy (2016)
A goddess awakens after 10,000 years in a coma.
THE HARPY is discussed in this article by Cathrin Gordon, “Artist Retrospective: The Unsung Genius of Sylvia Toy” (http://bit.ly/0711SToyReviewAtMed). 9 minutes.
TYFTB (thank you from the bottom) (2011)
By Sylvia Toy St. Louis & Bart Lewis. “A woman thinks the Universe is collapsing and while trying to find a black hole to escape into, winds up in a mental hospital. As she tries to convince her Psychiatrist to release her so that she can resume her search for a black hole and save herself, her imaginary friend, an alien astronomer who lives inside an old black and white TV, delivers a lecture on dark energy.” 50 minutes.
VOICE, a performance art movie (2016)
VOICE, A PERFORMANCE ART MOVIE is a 159 minute movie about Psyche Smith, a bipolar woman whose psychoses begin traveling in outer space just as she enters therapy. VOICE was shot splitscreen/greenscreen with one actress playing all three characters. The world of VOICE is composed of original montages incorporating NASA footage, anatomical diagrams of the Human nervous system and documentary-style outdoor footage. While the psychoses, Echo & Lyssa, tour outer space dressed to the nines in beautiful clothing, often including hats, Psyche – when not wearing the uniform of the depressed, a bathrobe – begins to find her own heart and starts painting again. Psyche’s therapy sessions are portrayed through monologues given directly through “the Fourth Wall” to the camera. VOICE is not an autobiographical downer confessional about bipolar disorder. VOICE is about the infinity of freedom and joy that one can achieve through self-discovery and following his/her bliss. VOICE received an Honorable Mention from LA Underground Film Forum in 2016 and since 2015, excerpts have screened in festivals around the world – London, Marrakech, Berlin, Barcelona, Milan – including HearteartH Project, International Video Art Exchange Program, and CM Projects’ Chemcraft Exhibit.
ACTOR AND PERFORMANCE ARTIST
From 1990-2007, I was a regularly touring theater artist, primarily as a solo performance artist. Curated appearances include: Afro Solo, Brava Theatre’s Taking Shape, Cafe Voltaire (Chicago), The Children’s Theatre (Lincoln NE), Cultural Odyssey’s African-American Performance Art Festival, Solo Mio, The Headlands, The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, The Marsh, The Wagon Train Project, Works/San Jose. I was an artist in the Artist Diversity Residency Program at the University of Nebraska from 1998 through 2003. My solo play SCHOOLS!, a story about home protest school during the Civil Rights Movement, premiered at the Afro Solo Festival in San Francisco in 1997, and toured theatre, schools and other venues for 6 years. My acting teacher was Luis Oropeza; my voice coach, Dr. Lee Strawn.
APPEARANCES (partial list)
2nd Online Performance Art Festival (2016)
Madame Pearl (Play by Katherine Robards, Title Role, 2016)
Flesh (Short Film by Sean Sinclair, Credited Support Role, 2015)
Full Frontal (Student Film, Lead Role, 2013)
Sex, Lies & Videotape (Student Film, Lead Role, 2013)
4.48 Psychosis (Play by Sarah Kane, 2007)
Afro Solo Festival (Solo Play by Myself, 2007)
Corps Actor, Jump! Theatre (San Francisco, 2005-2010)
Jane: Abortion and the Underground (Play by Paula Kamen, Support Role, 2004)
JUMP National Tour (Solo Play by Myself, 2001)
Schools! National Tour (Play by Myself, 1998-2003)
Current …….. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4563904/?ref_=nmbio_bio_nm (IMDb profile)
April 20, 2016 …….. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ccawebster/sets/72157667300139551 (MADAME PEARL, premiere photos)
2016 ……. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4955942/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm (FLESH)
VIDEOS OF PLAYS BY NENA ST. LOUIS: youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF6jWf5H1XJ3L2Ki8L-sPPEf05m-ABXiW
SCULPTOR (As “Nena St. Louis”)
My work is in approximately 50 private collections throughout the United States (partial list, nena-stlouis.com/collectors.html). My professional representation: Gallery 72 (Omaha NE), 1985-1987; Images A Gallery, 1987-1989, Mace Space for Art, 1990-1992, and Bomani Gallery, 1991-2003 (San Francisco); and Lacy Primitive & Fine Art, 2004-present (Los Angeles). I was a member of Ceres Gallery (New York), 2005-2008. I was mentored by Margarita Worth, Nebraska, and David Klass, New York, NY.
San Francisco Public Library (Major Group Show)
Los Medanos College Art Gallery, Pittsburgh, CA (Two-person Show)
Sargent Johnson Gallery, San Francisco (Major Group Show)
Ceres Gallery, Group Show, New York
Precious Things, Ceres Gallery, New York (Solo)
Evolution, Somarts Gallery, San Francisco (Major Group Show)
Origins, Ceres Gallery, New York (Solo)
Krasdale Gallery, Bronx, NY (Major Group Show)
Sargent Johnson Gallery, San Francisco (Solo)
Ceres Gallery, Group Show, New York
As artists we are often inspired by our environment, influenced by our immediate circumstances and forced to resort to utilizing whatever resources are available. My immediate circumstance today was the overpowering need to create something, even though I have had the flu for days. Because I have the flu, the least physically challenging performance on camera that I can do are actions and sound that are not strenuous. My available resources include a vocal range limited by my illness – i.e., the only notes I can sustain for (almost) a whole inhalation are high E’s. And my environment includes 12 yards of beautiful black toile that I have only used once since I bought it a year ago. Sometimes, in spite of a subtext-laden title, that’s as deep as the work goes.Video & stills from THE WITCH OF ENDOR (2017).
Source: Art As Deep As It Can
After Sum’a the Enforcer, youngest sister of King Sum’o, kills a Human during an argument, she delivers the corpse of the Human to her brother. Sum’o the King of the Gods places the dead Human next to his heart and becomes pregnant. His sisters discover the pregnancy. This festival cutting is part of a longer short, Passages, A Myth, 2015, which is available on Saatchi Art as a limited edition DVD.
Source: The King of the Gods Gives Birth