Building the Future: Q&A with Ginny Sykes

Video still from performance of L'iniziazione, collaboration between Ginny Sykes & Teresa Mangiacapra. Photo: Luigi Montefoschi.

Posted by Katherine Welsch July 12, 2017


At its heart, Anabeth and John Weil Hall is about people—artists, architects, designers, curators, and scholars working collaboratively to respond to global realities. It comes as no surprise that throughout the design process, this new building has been shaped and inspired by the words and work of countless members of our community, past and present.

As part of our shared updates, we will take some time to provide a closer look at how alumni, faculty, students, and staff are impacting our plans, in myriad ways.

Today we catch up with Ginny Sykes, BFA79, whose own work inspired some of the artwork featured in the renderings of the MFA studio.

Talk about what your art practice looks like now.

It continues to be multidisciplinary, a combination of studio work that includes painting, drawing, collage and mixed media. I also still have my toe in the waters of public art. I'm doing a lot of international projects, working in performance and video. I'm performing at the second annual Naples Art Performing Festival [curated by Gianni Nappa] in Italy this summer. I'm also continuing a project with a video artist in Berlin, our third project together. My objective is to weave together the various threads of my practice, and have them inform each other, and to increase opportunities in international venues.

Always at the core of what I do, I'm thinking about how feminism informs my work.

What has been your motivation for working more internationally?

That's something I've deliberately cultivated. I've been living and working in Chicago for about 30 years, and I needed to expand my horizons. I have been traveling quite a lot to Italy, and this has opened a lot of new doors for me. I feel quite drawn to Europe, so I am spending as much time there as I can. I've had quite a hunger to work outside of the United States. It's reinvigorated my practice with new ways of thinking and making.

I experience an openness to the work that I'm doing in Europe, and that feels very fresh to me. I feel in sync with the artistic sensibilities of the people I've had the opportunity to meet and work with there.

How does feminism inspire your work?

It dates back to when I was quite young, even as an undergraduate, and the lack of information I had about women artists. That awareness fueled both my curiosity and my upset that women artists had been left out of the curriculums and the canons. As I began to teach, this became even more obvious. After completing my master's degree in women and gender studies with a focus on performance, I was able to put into language and my work various feminist theoretical constructs, which I had always intuited. I thought I'd use all of this in my job as an educator. As it turns out, I left my position teaching at the Art Institute and moved those ideas to my own practice.

To me, it is evident across my work—starting with the more figurative work and then moving toward abstraction—I'm always drawing from these ideas and addressing specific subject matter about identity and representation. I may address those themes in a more oblique way, but they're always there.

Last fall, some of our BFA students visited your studio as part of a Road Show. What was that experience like?

I was actually in Italy at the time, but one of my studio assistants, BFA alum Rebecca Lothan, led the group through the studio. But I recently served as a guest speaker at a luncheon with some young alums. That was really nice—a great dialogue emerged. I think about opportunities like these as a way to facilitate discussion among everyone, maybe using a few things about my work and practice as a point of departure, but then taking the focus away from me to make it a situation where we can all create a learning opportunity. You can look up information about a person and their work online. I'm much more interested in what can emerge from the live exchanges with each other.

What current and upcoming opportunities are you most excited about?

I'm really jazzed about the performance festival in Naples because I'm collaborating with Teresa Mangiacapra, an artist who is a key figure in Italy's feminist movement. The whole festival explores the theme of "the feminine." We’re doing a three-part piece, La Certezza e il dubbio (Certainty is the doubt). It explores different facets of women's experience: part one explores an antiquity ritual, part two presents the message of love from the Magdalene, and part three is an encounter between masculine and feminine archetypes rooted in the present.

My solo show Paint, Splatter and Roll opens in September at Chicago Art Source, and features some of the work I showed and made in Naples along with newer work. It's a nice way for me to feel the connection between both places.

To learn more about Sykes' work, visit her website,

Selection of Images of Sykes' work that will be featured in Paint, Splatter and Roll in September

Blue/Black Rose Series 1-6, acrylic collage on paper.


Aqua/Orange, acrylic collage on paper, 29.75 x 42 inches.

Kiss My..., acrylic, spray paint, spray foam, and paper collage on wood panel, 47.5 x 47.5 inches.


Correspondence #1, acrylic collage on paper, 41 x 29 inches.