For many artists, the digital sphere has been a necessary tool in reaching larger audiences and sidestepping possible gatekeeping from institutions. Instagram, with its emphasis on all things visual, has been particularly helpful.
Since the 2018 rollout of a feature that allows users to share other peoples’ posts in their Instagram stories, profiles on the social media platform have become reminiscent of the blogs on LiveJournal or Tumblr, with personal posts placed between music suggestions and images meant to boost an imagined aesthetic. Queued after videos from, say, a hike or a meal, you may catch the work of an unknown artist your old friend or little cousin admires — and find that, after visiting the artist’s profile, you admire them, too.
ALL ARTS has always been a platform meant to bolster the work of artists through a supportive community that transcends genre, and the ALL ARTS Instagram is no different. Every week, we feature posts from creators in the digital space on our Instagram stories. And now, with the aim to foster our arts community, we’re talking with a new artist every week in our new series: Artists of Instagram.
Meet Cydne Jasmin Coleby (@cydoodles), a 27-year-old collage artist based in Nassau, Bahamas.
Coleby “doodled” as a child, and when her parents took notice, they encouraged her to continue her arts education by enrolling her in extra-curricular art classes. She went on to study Fine Arts as The College of the Bahamas (now University), but “due to uncontrollable circumstances,” she was unable to finish her formal arts education. However, she maintained her career through graphic design, and in 2018, she created her “God Called Self” series, which were accepted into the 9th National Exhibition of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas.
We spoke to the artist about her pieces, her inspirations and what art means to her.
What does art mean to you? How does it fit in your story?
Before I was even old enough to fully understand what a career was, I knew I wanted to be an artist. One of my mother’s longtime friends was a sibling of two prominent artists here in The Bahamas (Stan and the late Jackson Burnside). I remember the first time I walked into the Burnside’s family home: The walls were covered with salon hung paintings. It was the most beautiful thing my eyes had ever seen. Seeing the awe in my face, my mother told me that Stan and Jackson were professional artists which meant that they were able to freely create all the time. I was sold.
But aside from their jobs seeming like the coolest jobs ever, art was always a place of refuge for me. I was always a quiet person with a busy mind. Through my work I was able to find my voice while quieting the noise in my head. Even if I wasn’t working in the arts, I know I’d always be trying to find a way to create, to calm my mind and reconnect with myself.
How would you describe the type of art that you create?
I create graphic digital and mixed media collages that explore the ways in which individual and collective identities are influenced by trauma. I use a lot of texture, pattern, colour and manipulated images of the body (mainly my body). I find that collage illustrates how different experiences come together to form a complete picture, and that’s not always a clean or seamless process. Nothing in this life is as picturesque and perfect as it may seem, especially not humans, and I think that’s where the real beauty lies.
How has social media and the digital sphere helped you with your art career?
Tremendously. As an artist based in an island nation, it can be difficult for my artwork to be seen outside of my local network. Like in most smaller communities, galleries and institutions here will invite creative professionals (curators, educators, advisors, etc.) to visit and facilitate international connections. Once connected, I’ve typically stayed in touch with these people through social media, and if/when my work is shared on their profiles, I am then exposed to a wider, global audience.
Since the pandemic started, people are glued to their phones and on social media way more than usual. I am finding that when my posts are being shared, they are receiving a lot more traction than before. A lot of my partnerships and sales have been established through Instagram or my website. Two of the galleries I am currently working with, Galerie Julien Cadet in Paris and Unit London, found my work through Instagram. Outside of the sales through those galleries, I have collectors reaching out to me directly to acquire works, and I’ve actually sold all of my pieces.
So it always has been [important], but especially now that people aren’t able to travel, digital platforms are a vital part of growing my practice.
How has the current global climate affected your art?
The global climate has forced me to consider ways in which I can be more socially conscious in my work. My practice has primarily addressed its themes through a personal lens. I have started to expand beyond that in my recent works, but I want to keep pushing that boundary to see where it goes. I also find myself wanting to reconnect with the Bahamian landscape. I want to truly explore this place I call home and honour my culture the best way I know how.
How do you find inspiration?
Family has been a big source of inspiration for me. I grew up in an extended family home, so I was always sounded by family and stories of the past. Now that I am older and I have access to more stories, some of which may have been too sensitive for me when I was younger, it is interesting to hear the ways in which history has repeated itself throughout the generations. I’m compelled to explore that resilience and bring their images and themes into new light.
What other artists inspire you?
So many! I’ve always been huge fans of Wangechi Mutu, Mickalene Thomas, Kerry James Marshall and Njideka Akunyili Crosby. I absolutely love the work of Bahamian artists Maxwell Taylor and Lavar Munroe.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Top Image: Courtesy of Cydne Jasmin Coleby