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.​

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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.​

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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.

Sylvia Toy St. Louis’ Exhibition List and Videography

Year of creation: 2008


Psychotic Artifacts. Exhibited in The Revolution Will Be Televised, Altered Esthetics Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, 2008.

Year of creation: 2010

Depression As Geography. Exhibited in ‘CologneOff VII, Marrakech and Turkestan, 2011.

Year of creation: 2011

Indigo Lady. Selected for L.A. Neo Noir Film Festival, Femmes Fatales Grand Jury Award, 2016.

Indigo Lady pre-production videos. Exhibited at Galerie Chartier, West Haven, CT, 2013; KAPAS Film Festival, Spain, 2012.

Runnn. Exhibited on Skye Arte TV, Italy, 2013-2014.

Traveling To: Exhibited in STREETVIDEO Art on the streets of Paris and at Larcade Gallery, Paris October 2012, March 2013.

TYFTB (thank you from the bottom), (remastered and re-released 2017). Pre-production video screened at Galerie Chartier, West Haven CT, 2013.

Year of creation: 2013


running out. Exhibited in Pineapple Underground Film Festival, Hong Kong, 2014.

Year of creation: 2014

before chill: Selected for Creative Arts Film Festival and awarded Honorable Mention for Best Cinematography, Online festival, 2016.

Year of creation: 2014

The Sound of Being. Toured internationally in Magmart F.I.V.E., 2014-2015. Exhibited in CCIFabrika “Now&After17,” Moscow, RU, 2017.

Year of creation: 2015

The Blue Lady. Exhibited in 1974-1978 UNL Alumni Exhibition, Eisentrager-Howard Art Gallery, Lincoln, NE, 2016.

Passages, a Myth. Excerpt, PASSAGES, A MYTH | DISCOVERY OF THE PREGNANCY OF THE KING, exhibited in Festival Miden, Kalamata, Greece, 2016 and at Visual Container, Milan, IT 2017.

Year of creation: 2016

THE HARPY by Sylvia Toy. Selected for Bucharest ShortCut CineFest, September, 2016.

VOICE, a performance art movie. Selected for Hong Kong Arthouse Film Festival, 2017. Awarded Honorable Mention laurels by Los Angeles Underground Film Forum, 2016.

VOICE Festival Cutting 2. Exhibited at VisualContainer TV (2016 and 2017) and toured in HearteartH to Barcelona, Berlin, Milan (2016).

VOICE Festival Cutting 3. Exhibited in Underground FilmFest, Munich, Germany (2017).

VOICE Pre-production videos. Exhibited in International Video Art Exchange Program, Marrakech (2016) and in the Chemcraft Exhibit, CM Projects, London (2015).

Year of creation: 2017

THE HARPY Tribunal. Exhibited on Art Web Gallery, La Spezia, IT, online June-July 2017.

KILLER JANE by Sylvia Toy. Exhibited at Klanghaus, Oakland CA, May 2017.

KILLER JANE Pre-production videos. Selected for L.A. Neo Noir Film Festival and awarded a Femmes Fatales Grand Jury Award, 2016.

CREDO: A PILGRIM. Created for Democracy Scrabble, Visual Container, Milan, December 2017.

Draw Like a Big Girl

My father taught me foreshortening by making me sit and draw for hours with my left hand half open, palm up with my bent fingers pointed towards me. Hours and hours. Failed drawing after failed drawing.Finally one day, after working so hard that I started a migraine, I realized that I had done it – I had succeeded in foreshortening my fingers. What a triumphant moment. And then, immediately I had the most terrifying epiphany of my life: “There is no going back – I will have to draw like a big girl for the rest of my life.” It is inevitable that curious creatives, like cats who get stuck on the roof (yes, the roof, and there was noone else at home to climb the fire escape to rescue her except me, an acrophobic), it is inevitable that the curious find themselves at technical points of no return. That is what happened to me this week when not only did I make the most complicated animation of my new career in stop motion, I combined live action with the animation – that is, I beat my brains out trying, gave myself a migraine, had my tentative moment of triumph and realized with horror: “Oh my god, why did I have to learn something this hard? Now, I’ll have to animate like a big girl!”

Source: Draw Like a Big Girl

Just because it’s performance art doesn’t mean I’m naked

First of all, let me tell you that you have to have made $100 on Google social media to have a check sent to you. After blogging and YouTubing for over 10 years, I have about $40 in Google credit to my name. Second, yes, I also advertise my Twitter account a few times a year and my Facebook pages every other month or so if FB is sending me a lot of tips – they stop bugging you for a while if you boost a post. But I spend very little, and in the last six months, less and less.Rule 101 of arthouse is your work is never going to be popular in the mainstream or go viral. Rule 102 of arthouse is your legacy is probably toast unless your work gets documented by writers and or acquired/archived/preserved by museologist curators. As artists, especially those of us who just insist on making up absurd, impossible stories, characters and worlds, we almost all operate on our own dime. My monetizing and advertising is merely symbolic affirmation that I am my own boss, am not starving and suffering in some garret, and am never going to be invisible (even when I’m dead if possible!).So sharing my amusement and bemusement about YouTube’s refusal to monetize some of my CREATION videos is neither complaint nor criticism. It knocks me off my seat laughing that the YouTube bots think I’m naked in some of the scenes of CREATION. I am not now, never have been and never will be naked on camera while I’m still breathing. Most people cannot even imagine how prudish it is possible for a human being to be! That said, I am absolutely thrilled about this new feature-length (75 minutes) roughcut. I have made so many preparatory, test and experimental videos for my project, CREATION, that a brother and sister in art have encouraged me to mash up about 75 minutes, short feature length, of CREATION clips. When my instinct finally convinced me I should try it, I realized that, as can happen to anyone, I have a box to think outside of. While I will continue shooting character and story development for CREATION, I am hoping the new ‘challenge’ project, SEQUENCE 32, has loosened me up.Much thanks for peer-friends help fellow artists grow.

Source: Just because it’s performance art doesn’t mean I’m naked