Conjuring Our Ancestral Spirits Through Art

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Sydney Cain aka Sage Stargate, at work in her studio in San Francisco's Hunters Point Shipyard art studios (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Sydney Cain uses her art to connect with her community, as well her ancestors.

By using a process of reduction, slowly moving her hands in a circular motion to move dust-sized pieces of elements, such as cobalt and graphite, around the surface of a canvas, she reveals lines, shapes and figures that tell a story of what used to be… and maybe still is in another realm.

Sydney, who also goes by Sage Stargate, is a third generation San Franciscan. She grew up in the Fillmore, and remembers it from before gentrification when it was a largely African American community.



The images that appear in her artwork often harken back to that time, or to even earlier eras in her family’s history, like the Jim Crow South.

Sydney, who is one of the Museum of African Diaspora’s Emerging Artists this year, says her work has revealed images that look like ancestors she’s never met, but older family members see the figures and instantly recognize them. It’s almost like they’re still here– both the people, and the community.

Many would call Sydney’s work “art,” but it toes the line of what one might call a spiritual practice.

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