We had the good fortune of connecting with Molly Sydnor and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Molly, what inspires you?
My main source of inspiration come from self exploration. As a biracial (Black) queer woman who straight and white passes, inspiration coming from experience is quite common. My work is often about how I move through life. It evolves as I do. I read a lot about identity and learn new words for things I previously didn’t have the vocabulary for. I intend to teach others about these things through my work. I have a fairly unique and niche perspective on life because of who I am and what I look like. With so many people gatekeeping blackness, queerness, and sexuality, I don’t fit into most peoples mold of “normal”, both unintentionally as well as intentionally. Its a strange duality of being, but it helps advance my work and the messages and things I like to talk about. There are a lot of people who feel the same way I do and like me, didn’t or don’t have the vocabulary for it. I’m so inspired by this and want to allow people to understand through art. Outside of identity (race, gender, sexuality) my work is often inspired by memory, touch, feeling, emotions and our experience as humans. I create interactive work through storytelling and the layering of media, ideas and imagery. Experimentation, innovation, and play ground my work through these explorations. I use lots of color and textures, in heavily fiber based work.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I think there have been many different identities of the Molly Margaret Designer brand. In college I learned to conceive a body of work. From concept to completion I was able to learn my main source of inspiration comes from self and identity. This started in High School when I was involved in a car accident changing the trajectory of my future as an athlete. Through that trauma and those experiences, came my artistic practice that took me through college. After graduating I become super involved in the two rug companies I had worked for until I found a balance allowing me to get back into my multidisciplinary practice. After applying to many shows, submitting proposal after proposal, and grant after grant, I had little to no luck. I decided to put together my own art show to gain insight on the community. This would also serve as a platform. It was this show that launched my name as an artist in Dallas. A friend wrote about me and it was published in print in D Magazines August issue. After this I secured a residency with Sunset Studios where they allowed me the freedom to explore a concept I had been sitting on for a few years. I taught a zine workshop with WAAS Gallery, helped start a queer collective, and then landed a room at Sweet Tooth Hotel for the largest installation of my career. Getting here was incredibly difficult. I leaned heavily on friends and family. I leaned on my small network that was growing, and counted on my community to catch me if I fell. Growing tired of rejection (even after growing a super thick skin from art school) the biggest lesson I learned was I am my own best asset. I am the one who has to make a change to get things done. When all else fails I am still here working my ass off. If I cannot secure the grant or a spot in a show, I won’t give up, I just have to keep pushing and make my own opportunities. I have a lot that needs to be said. The journey has been hard and will not get any easier. While I’m getting more opportunities than I’ve ever had in Dallas ( and a few other cities), I’m getting just as much if not more rejection. I’m applying to anything and everything and although I’ve submitted some of the same concepts ten or fifteen times, I will keep submitting until something sticks! Sports gave me not only a physical endurance but a mental one too. I do feel 2020 has released a different beast in me. I feel more me than I’ve ever felt. I’ve always done my best to embrace my blackness and the last few years queerness. I’ve always been unapologetically me. But this year in 2020 I’ve been able to learn and grow more into myself than ever. I have spent the larger portion of my life explaining who I am. I, a white/straight passing queer, biracial (Black) woman of color have always been told who I am, what I am not, and the identity I am or am not allowed to have. With attempts to not center myself in the Black narrative, I’ve learned after years of imposter syndrome that Blackness is not a monolith. There is no one way to be a queer Black woman. Paralleling these experiences, I am also bisexual. Its jarring comparing the two as they interweave within each other. Experiencing horizontal hostility from both groups because I am a square peg and the round hole of what people perceive as gay and Black doesn’t look like me. Ive studied and read about other people going through similar life motions and my work is heavily influenced by this research and the way I walk through life. Where I used to code switch, as to assimilate to what society told me I should be, I now own my identity which is the basis of my work. This is me and that is my brand. Education is a huge tool in my work. Through storytelling, I intend to grab the attention of viewers by using fun textures and playful narratives. The use of bright colors often rainbow through my concepts hitting the LGBTQ+ layer on the head. Underlying messages of sexuality, race, and identity form through my larger concepts. Any opportunity I have allows me to utilize space to not only educate people on what queer Blackness can look like, but also have fun while doing so.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First and foremost my best friend knows exactly who she is and I would absolutely allow her to help navigate a plan. As we are both artists and I’m pretty sure I know her very well, our first stop would be Sweet Tooth Hotel so I could show her my install and introduce her to Jencey and Cole Keeton. Id want to showoff the space and introduce her to the rest of the incredible staff of people who helped make my dream a reality and I know she would appreciate them and all of the other incredible artists work. Our next stop would have to be gallery hopping. Assuming this dream doesn’t include covid, id make sure she came on a date when all the local gallery opening and closing receptions lined up. Id definitely introduce her to Erin Cluley so we could all talk about MICA and Baltimore living through memory and art school. We would grab food from pie tap and end the night at the Alamo draft house watching a flick and drinking boozy shakes. The next day, we would check out The Dallas Contemporary, DMA, and The Nasher and get food from a local food truck. Eventually wed hit up the Fort Worth Modern and FCAC and get food from Fixture. We’d end art day by going to every single mural that Jeremy Briggers and Mariell Guzman have ever made! When not over indulging in art, I would take her to pregame at the Grapevine bar and then off to the Rose Room for a drag show. While on the Cedar Springs strip id take her to see my favorite gay cowboy bar tending at Round Up (wink Tavi). Since wed already be at Round Up Saloon, we would definitely Karaoke Zombie by The Cranberries at some point. I also might be able to convince her to come to sand bar with me to watch some of the LQC Dallas folks play ball with Pride Sports, and we would have to eat fried pickles from Hunky’s! Knowing her, we would make a stop in Bishop Arts to check out Harkensback and all the super cool clothing Julie is working on. While in Bishop wed go to Kesslers for cookies and Spiral Diner for good vegan eats. Hola Cafe, Paradisio, oasis plant shop, We Are 1976 Print shop, Wild Detectives, Tribal All Day Cafe, and the Texas Theatre would all make the list as well as a visit to Sunset Studios and maybe a show directed by Morgana Wilborn at the Bishop Arts Theatre. At some point id take her for drinks on the HG Supply rooftop and Milk and cream for Ice cream. Wed probably hit up WAAS Gallery for some mindful meditation or one of Brandy Adams famous Tough Talks. While in Deep Ellum we would check out the New Thunderbird Station and Dance at Beauty Bar (rip). If time maybe barhop the Deep Ellum neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon. Our last stop would be Food from Beto and Sons and walking the dogs through trinity groves to see the Dallas Skyline enjoying cake from Cake Bar.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to thank Steph Grant for nominating me and LQC Dallas collective for the constant quest for queer spaces. There are so many people who have helped me, mentored me, stood up for me, and supported me. The list of people who have touched me, my work, or my experience is endless. My biggest supporters have and always will be my mom, dad, sister, and two brothers. I’ve also had other family members, teachers, coaches, doctors, roommates, friends, and an amazing group of people in Dallas that I call a community. My partner Topacio Maddox and our closest friends have been by my side pushing me hard through this Dallas chapter. When I left Milwaukee for college and then again when I left Baltimore for Dallas, the community I’ve found here is amazingly supportive. There are several people locally who have helped uniquely shape my vision. These folks have had a major impact on my career as an artist in Dallas. The list includes friends who have written about me, friends who have sent me applications to shows and grants, people who have taken chances on my work in shows and installations, and several folks who have given me opportunities. It also includes people who continue to support me by showing up, making purchases of my work, and all the kind words shared, and photos liked. I think its a bit redundant and exclusive to name specific names but I think these people know exactly who they are and how much I appreciate them! Additionally I can admit I would be nowhere without the years worth of podcasts and books I’ve read and all sources of art I’ve indulged in. There are a lot of people I look up to and many I turn to for creative guidance. If not personally, through their work.
Shelbie Monkres Topacio Maddox Levi Harding Tim Best