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Sydney Clermont is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo who is majoring in Fine Arts Studio Practice and minoring in Visual Culture in a Global Context. Sydney specializes in acrylic painting and photography, and has explored themes surrounding identity construction, reproductive rights, and mental health. Although painting is her primary focus, Sydney has worked on sculpture and audio installations with engineers, vinyl heat-transfers on t-shirts, and text printed on crystal clear film. In 2018, Sydney was the recipient of the University of Waterloo Anatomical Illustration Award for her achievements in the Figure and Anatomy course. For her thesis, Sydney is currently working on a two part series; photographs of strangers’ shoes, and paintings of her peers in masks. Her work challenges both the conscious and unconscious biases that make assumptions about others from the ways he/she/they appear. 

Artist Statement

Route 202 is a series of photographs taken of strangers’ shoes during my commute to work on the bus every day. This series challenges conscious and unconscious biases that make assumptions about others from the ways he/she/they appear. Merely looking at an individual’s shoes causes one to speculate about their social status, lifestyle, gender, personality, age and race. My goal is to illuminate these assumptions and recognize the negative impacts stereotypes have when they influence our perceptions of an individual’s identity and experience. I limited my inherent biases by photographing every person on the bus at a given time instead of selecting specific individuals. Consent was obtained from every person I photographed. The only instances in which I could not photograph a subject were when the individual was sitting in an inaccessible spot and I could not follow social distancing guidelines, if they were wearing earbuds and could not hear me, or if they did not consent.

Masked is a series of acrylic paintings based on photographs of students, specifically my friends, in hoodies and masks. This is an interesting contrast between the assumptions one makes about a stranger in comparison to someone they know. Due to the global pandemic, everyone is wearing masks and social distancing, causing a disconnect even between the closest of friends. Introducing the attire of hoodies and masks is not only reflective of the physical impact of COVID-19, but also symbolic of the emotional effects of COVID-19. Being covered up and withdrawn, people are hidden from others and what you may assume someone is feeling or experiencing, now you can never be certain.