These videos, each less than 2 minutes long, are discrete works, including several that were created as part of series. I use shorts to explore character, practice my storytelling chops, and perfect visual experiments; and also to save ideas for a later date. It is good exercise for me as a motion picture artist to make a whole story happen in less than 2 minutes.
Exploring "being human" through improvisational acting means finding my throughline as a character forms and tells its story on camera. It is boggling how often that character is not who I planned for it to be before I turned on the camera. That speaks volumes about "what is humanness."
I have always had a day job. For 25 years, I regularly made, exhibited and sold sculpture. During that time, I also toured as a solo theater artist, founded a theater company and had about 15 plays produced. Since 2006, I have been a video artist as "sylvia toy." Artists are good mentors when they show by example that art is a 24/7 emotional commitment that has to be cultivated and earning a paycheck in a field that is not your bliss does not prevent you from being an artist.
In 2010 I developed one of those deadly allergies to sawdust from which the only going back you're going to do is in a Hazmat suit - it was my own, personal environmental disaster, as woodcarving was my best friend and I became quite bereaved. Woodcarving was not just about expressing myself, asserting myself as an artist - it was my anchor, it was the way that I learned to reach a meditative state, and it was my backup when I started to look my affect in the eye. That staredown will never end, but everything being a sculptor taught me will always be with me. Hemingway: "Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it - don't cheat with it."
Performance art, live that is, is an acquired taste. As a theatre artist, I was not evangelical about getting my work out there (well, maybe in 1994), trying to make converts. I chose solo performance for the same reason that I was a paralegal instead of an art teacher or living off grants: if I got money in a part of the world where I couldn't really even talk about what I did as an artist, I was isolated but I was free. It's okay for people to tell me how I might do whatever it is better, but not how or WHAT to do. I did not want to be beholden to anyone - I would rather be at the end of the pecking order and get nothing than be beholden to anyone.
I also thought it would make me feel polluted to make art any other way than the way that I saw it inside my head. That's why I have never cared for my play SCHOOLS except for two factors of acting that play.
One is easy: playing 20 characters was showing off as well as a great acting exercise for me, especially since playing the main character of my mother, was playing way way way way against type for me. I was taught at a young age by someone, maybe my father, that if I wasn't stretching, I wasn't working hard enough. Besides, people who thought I sucked stopped saying that out loud enough that it got back to me after SCHOOLS.
The second factor is not easy, and not easy to make clear. Telling the truth is my own most basic rule as an artist - if I catch myself telling not the truth, the sculpture goes in the dumpster, the play literally gets cut up and sorted into good stuff, maybe stuff and trash, and the video gets erased or put on the shelf until the rest of the truth shows up (no matter how long that takes). Telling the truth is as searing as a knife that's red hot. Talking about race is neither red hot nor pointed for me; it's room temperature and definitely dull as a knife that you cut meatloaf with.
SCHOOLS was only interesting for me and justifiable for getting paid to do it without feeling like a whore because I made my bigger-than-life mother the main character, not because I got to talk about all the rotten things white people and America have done to me blah blah blah.
I care about holding my own in society as a person who has adapted well enough to earn most of my money in a part of society that might as well be foreign country to me (the American legal industry). I care about being able turning myself into a human being in spite of struggling with bipolar disorder since I was a toddler. I care about having been a professional artist (read: exhibited, produced, paid). I care most about being in charge of my own self and my own life, and I would rather be alone and isolated, or dead if necessary, than not to be in charge of myself.
I check my "stats" several times a day. It gives me no small amount of sheer joy that so far, the most-watched videos of my old live theatre shows that I've put up on Vimeo in the past couple of weeks are ESSAYS ON ANGER AND CUSTARD PIE and JUMP, not SCHOOLS. That fact is meaningless to anyone who doesn't know me pretty damn well, I know. But it gives ME no end of satisfaction. NO end.