OUT OF THE BLACK AND INTO THE BLUE
Sidney Blu is a talent rarely seen—a virtuoso, if you will. He has a body of work that ranges from resin sculptures to eight foot paintings that dominate gallery walls. When we first became acquainted with his work at Miami Art Basel, intrigued by the detail and sheer magnitude of his work, we had to know more about the man behind the portrait.
At first glance, you see a person with a carefully crafted image from beginning to end. All subjects, including himself, are veiled in blue coverings, but as our chat progressed, we got a glimpse into the man behind the mask.
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS, Sidney Blu
"My paintings are basically my diary; the same way people pick up a diary to write, I'll just paint and communicate things that I am experiencing," he says. His art creates a safe space for discussion about mental health and uses anecdotal story telling from his own life experiences. He explains how art can be a form of therapy as we discuss his painting, "Head in the Clouds." The painting depicts Sidney in the middle of the ocean, pursued by a squad of officers; one might think it was about systematic racism in policing, but the message is dual.
He ties the scenario to the sometimes cutthroat world of art. Sidney, fresh from Nigeria and excited to share space with his idol in the New York art scene, is met with the coldest of receptions and an underlying air of competition. "From the outside, you'd think it's a huge community of creatives, but it's not everyone's in competition with each other." But for me, I'm like, "Why are you competing? The skies are large enough for both of us to fly," he tells ASLUT. This style of story telling distinguishes Sidney from traditional gallery artists; his style of story telling is so current and raw. His painting, "Same Old Story," deals with the not so cheery side of the holidays that many face each year. "Everyone's posting pictures with their family, having a good time, and it's the twelfth Christmas for me without spending time with my family," he says.
SAME OLD STORY, Sidney Blu
Black men have historically had less access to mental health care and face a number of socioeconomic factors that can negatively impact their mental health. From the lack of resources in their communities to the lack of cultural competency among healthcare providers. Many Black men may not feel comfortable seeking help from a healthcare system that they perceive as not understanding or valuing their cultural experiences.
He shares with us the instance that changed his journey with mental health for the better:
"I'm an immigrant, and I came from my country in 2017. The immigration process was so tough, and I felt lost at that time. I was in Niagara Falls, and the girl I was dating noticed that I had been missing from the house for quite a long time." He goes on to tell us that he stood next to the railing of Niagara Falls and almost committed the unthinkable. Reevaluating the experience, he says, "I was very selfish; imagine how my mom and brother would feel." Experiencing such lows compelled him to embark on a self-healing journey that could heal others in the process. He tells us that a regular fitness routine, a healthy lifestyle, and therapy have done wonders for his mental health. Donating his time and resources to mental health organizations in the U.S. and Nigeria has been a way for Blu to bridge the gap and let people know that it's okay to seek help. "It's way bigger than me now, and I'm going to make my story impact people the best way I can, which is pretty much trauma art and charity," Blu tells us.
CONVERSATIONS WITH STRANGERS I BARELY KNOW (RIGHT)
+(LEFT) MY OASIS, SIDNEY BLU
Sidney Blu will be showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and his first line of sculptures will be dropping in March 2023. You can support his charity work in Nigeria and his artistic practice online at sidenyblu.com and on Instagram at @bluthegenius.