My Cinematic Kitchen Window by Sylvia Toy

There is nothing quite the light of late autumn/early winter. Shot on my iPhone while I was supposed to be making lunch. #experimentalfilm #sylviatoy #sylviatoystlouis #performanceart #sylviatoyindustries #AfricanAmericanartist

Advertisements

VOICE, a performance art movie is in the house

I have made autobiographical art about mental illness for twenty five years, including sculpture and solo theatre. One of my friends and theatre collaborators told me I’ve made so much art about it that I’ve almost cured myself of bipolar disorder. By the time I began working on VOICE, a performance art movie, it wasn’t autobiographical anymore. I was able to make surrealistic fiction about a middle-class woman who is so clueless about mental health that she is too embarrassed to tell her therapist that she was treated for an eating disorder as a young woman; a woman who is so out of touch with her inner self that her psychoses leave the planet without her. Also, the woman has had artist’s block since college – that’s not me! When the movie opens, she is a shell and her life has fallen apart.

I could never let my life fall apart like my character does. That’s not in my makeup. But I could also never let myself be vulnerable and as open to change as she is. I envy her vulnerability. I’m sure I’ve BEEN as vulnerable as anyone else; but as soon as I FEEL vulnerable, unlike the character in my movie, I become aggressive instead of falling apart.

This year, VOICE made me what is probably one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Her response to the movie has me in tears every time I think about it because she made it so personal. I believe that a work of art is not completed by its maker, but instead continues to be made by its viewers.

Years ago I toured a solo show about me and a mean voice that started inside my head when I was 8 years old. In the show, I play myself and the voice fighting constantly for control. When you’ve been living like that for 40 years, you can’t help but have a sense of humor or you’ll REALLY go crazy. But my audiences were usually dead silent in what I thought were the most deadly funny parts of my show until one night at the Midnight Sun in Olympia, Washington when the 15 schizophrenic outpatients I’d sold discounted tickets to, laughed so hard that I kept having to stop the show and I forgot some of my lines. That was art continuing in the viewer. My BFF making me cry about her response to VOICE is art continuing in the viewer.

A movie that I greenscreened by myself in my livingroom about a bipolar woman in therapy whose psychoses abandon her for outer space was such catharsis that I have to let it go – I have to let it continue. Thanks to Onlineum for spurring me to expedite subtitles so that VOICE could be part of Onlineum’s launch this past week.

VOICE, a performance art movie is in the house. https://youtu.be/SGJ4LnEDW2s

VOICE, a performance art movie (English subtitles) is playing on Onlineum

I am so happy that the new online museum, Onlineum, is featuring my performance art movie VOICE through November 23, 2017. ‘A bipolar woman’s psychoses begin touring outer space …’ @ http://www.onlineum.com/exhibitions/

Artist’s Life 101: I would be nothing if not for all my failures

I have been quite grateful for all the artworld rejections I’ve ever gotten for the past week. ​

On November 1, I got an email saying: “We really like your work. We were wondering if we may suggest screening AND SO I SAID piece, we think it would go better with the overall flow of our program.” I submitted KILLER JANE, which is 13 minutes, to this festival – the other movie is 5-1/2 minutes.​

​​

If you participate in the art world in more than one medium long enough, you will find yourself in the same sort of situation in more than one medium. I can recall exactly how upset I was the first time I submitted two sculptures to a competition and my favorite was passed over while the other won me a prize. That experience did not make any less awful the night my scene partner and I gave a staged reading of my first two-person monologue and right afterwards the artistic director of the venue said to the audience: “I think this should be a solo performance and (pointing out another actress who was in the audience) [she] should do it.” They had to scrape me off the floor that night.​

And then there’s the more than once of we-love-your-work-but-we-haven’t-made-our-final-decision-yet; and you wind up not getting selected. It takes years and years and years of rejections to recognize semi-finalist or honorable mention as currency.​

So with all the rejections, disappointments and in my face ego battering under my belt, I laughed and told myself: “Don’t get too excited about maybe getting into this festival – you know the drill.”​

I was going to write an essay about it however it turned out. I have been trying to get into art venues in Montreal for 20 years in three of my mediums. And I wish I could be there when Burnt Experimental Video Art and Film Festival screens AND SO I SAID.​

Artist’s Statement – October, 17, 2017

I applied for a high profile grant/fellowship last month. It’s not a matter of whether I get selected or not (I won’t), it’s a matter of my having that much faith in my work. Faith in one’s work is important.
I have sold a lot of sculpture for someone who was a career paralegal at the time. I have been paid as an actor more often than the average for someone who was a professional sculptor and a career paralegal at the time. Two of my plays were produced at no expense to me by an Equity theater, which is a lot for someone who was a touring actor, a professional sculptor and a career paralegal at the time.
I have sold sculpture, been paid as an actor and received grants, fellowships and residencies. I am at a point in my career as a filmmaker when one SHOULD be applying for grants, fellowships and residencies. However, since I’ve had grants, fellowships and residencies in other art careers already, I am 101% sure that while grants, fellowships and residencies might increase my profile in the artworld, they mostly will not help the work itself like they did in the past in my other art forms.
Theater folks will understand what I mean when I say I’m concerned about “legitimacy.” Non-union actors likely don’t have agents or managers, especially actors like me who work in “small theater,” which one of my art dealers whose husband was both SAG and Equity called “community theater.” Theater folks will also understand why I say “ouch.”
Because I have developed as filmmaker mostly on my own, I have been concerned with, distracted by, obsessed about achieving legitimacy, professionalism and mastery of tech in a way that people who’ve been to film school (whether they finished the program or not) probably don’t. Continuity, in my opinion, is the measuring stick of professionalism in film and also is at the heart of the craft. I believe continuity is never completely mastered because it is an art in itself and therefore, like any art, is always a higher goal to be achieved You learn continuity by doing it – no book can teach it to you – and I have suffered and slaved over it and lost sleep over it. However, my work is being recognized as peer work through official recognition by film festivals that are part of The Industry.
I often tell the story about an art professor I was chasing before I met my husband. He came to the opening of a two person gallery show where my new body of sculpture was being shown. I asked him what he thought of my work – I knew it wasn’t his cup of tea by the way he looked at it and I told him I knew that. But his response to my question was: “Well, I didn’t think you were stupid.”
It’s important to me to keep putting my work before film festivals because  I have faith in my work and I know after having achieved maturity in other art forms that I am approaching maturity as a filmmaker. I want to contribute to what I’ve always called the “body of thought” because I know that while I’m not always right as a filmmaker, I am not stupid.

Creation, a performance art movie in progress: A playlist of pre-production videos

CREATION is a mythology based on Mbombo, the creator god in the religion and mythology of the Kuba of Central Africa, who created the world by vomiting various parts of it.

I am in the pre-production phase of CREATION, composing a live action storyboard through a process of creating and uploading pre-production worldbuilding, story and character development videos.

CREATION is shot splitscreen and chromakeyed; and montaged with shots from the natural world. There is no dialogue (vocalization and singing are improvised) and the movie will be subtitled and or intertitled as necessary. The sound of the world of the story will be gathered as much as possible from the characters’ movements and mixed with found sounds to enhance the ambience.