Collages and Paintings filled with Cultural Ephemera reveal the Artist’s Journey
By Sally Deering
In her email address she’s “Bondgyrl” who, with her dad, has seen every 007 flick ever made. Away from the computer, she’s Theda Sandiford, a mixed-media artist and lover of found objects. Sandiford currently has work in the VANITY show at the Jersey City Theater Center; and five pieces are to be exhibited at Jersey City Art and Studio Tour’s (JCAST) Flagship Gallery on Sat and Sun, Oct 8, and 9, and every weekend in October.
It doesn’t matter how fancy or mundane a found object is, it tells a story, Sandiford says. It could be a Gatorade bottle cap, or a broken bracelet, once Sandiford finds her treasure, usually on her jaunts in the Jersey City neighborhood where she lives, the object(s) will be reconstructed into a mixed-media collage.
“I find things when I walk around,” Sandiford says. “I’ll find a gear from a bicycle, I’ll see something broken. I’m seeing things all the time. Depending on what neighborhood I’m in, I can get a sense of who lives there by their garbage. In Jersey City, there are a lot of Corona caps and Heineken caps and Goya Malta if I’m near the park. In Hoboken, I’ll find the Heineken cap, but I’ll also find craft beer caps from Brooklyn lager. As you go through different neighborhoods, you’ll get to know who lives there. I just got back from London, I brought a bunch of things back.”
(“Eye of Providence” to be shown at JCAST Gallery in October)
In the VANITY show, Sandiford’s piece Selfie Joy features a pretty woman with a huge afro made of bottle caps, buttons and other objects d’art.
“I did a similar piece to Selfie Joy using the same photo which will be at the JCAST Gallery during the Jersey City Studio Tour next weekend,” Sandiford says. “I found two photos and tore them out of a magazine and I was so taken with the face, their skin, it felt like purity to me. I collected orange bottle caps, most of them came from Burning Man (the festival in Arizona). I had a friend on the recycling crew and he found every single orange Gatorade cap and shipped them to me. The pieces in the center of Selfie Joy that look almost floral, those are sippy parts that you find on kids’ juice containers. I put out a call for materials on Instagram and within weeks I had hundreds of them.”
It’s like she’s adding archeology into her collages; no matter where she is, objects she collects inspire her art, she says. Making art also helps her deal with life’s everyday craziness. In the beginning, when she starts creating a piece, Sandiford may feel angry about something or frustrated, but as she starts creating, those feelings change and when she feels finished with the work, she feels the joy of creating it and working through some inner turmoil.
“I started making art in 2004, after someone said to me that I wasn’t expressing myself fully, and to ‘take the things you’re upset about and instead of dwelling on them, make art to release them’,” Sandiford says “It was a suggestion that now is a life-line for me. How do I get to happy if I’m confused? How do I find clarity? My work deals with identity and self-exploration. I’m not doing it just to make pretty things to enjoy. I’m doing it to be fully-realized.”
Born in Queens, Sandiford has lived in Westchester, Puerto Rico, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Boston, Massachusetts where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies from Tufts University. She moved to Jersey City in 1995.
(“Radiant” by Theda Sandiford, Private collection)
“I was working and living in the city and I had a progression of people sleeping on my couch,” Sandiford says “No privacy. I wanted to live close to the city, so I came over here and bought a condo. There were maybe two restaurants, Skinner’s Loft and The Merchant, at the time. There was none of the things we have in Jersey City now.”
And what about that Bondgyrl email nickname?
“My dad is a huge James Bond fan and we would always see James Bond films every summer when they came out,” Sandiford laughs.
To one viewer at the VANITY show at the Jersey City Theater Center, Sandiford’s piece could very well be a take-off of a Bond girl. The figure looks very 1960s with big eyes and an over-sized afro which makes her look extremely feminine and hip.
“Every woman says they see some of themselves in my work and the pieces allow them to embrace their femininity and beauty,” Sandiford says “So often the images of women we see in the media make us feel ‘I’m not skinny enough,’ or ‘I’m not enough.’ If someone can buy one of my pieces and it makes them feel like they’re ‘enough’, then mission accomplished, and that makes me feel good.”
If you go
Through Nov. 11
The Art Gallery at JC Theater Center
339-345 Newark Ave, JC
Sat & Sun, Oct 8 and 9
JC Art and Studio Tour
JCAST Flagship Gallery
130 Pacific Ave, JC
For more info, www.thedasandiford.com
Oct 13-Nov 12
LA Center for Digital Art
104 E. 4th St, LA