Canadian artist Syrus Marcus Ware has recently gained ample attention for his work with Black Lives Matter Toronto, of which he is a founding member. But the multi-hyphenate has been creating masterful work for quite some time.
Photo Courtesy of Syrus Marcus Ware
A Black, transgender, disabled artist, activist, and scholar, Ware is a Quebec native who has never settled for pursuing one passion. Even as he works on a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies, Ware is busy employing large-scale drawings, installations, paintings, and dances to tell stories about gender, sexuality, and race. He’s honed his chops in each of these mediums over multiple decades, and even though he may be best known for his breathtaking portraits, Ware has created everything from plays to large-scale epistoral projects. But it wasn’t always that way.
Like most young artists, Ware’s professors told him to pick a lane and stick to it. His art school teachers told him to be more abstract and less political.
“Luckily I didn’t listen and continued going down the direction that I wanted to go down,” he said in a recent interview, “Which was to make work that was about the experience of becoming politicized about my experience as an activist, and that was about sustaining activism and figuring out ways to support and nourish activists and organizers in the struggle.”
Recently, he has focused his attention on museum diversification. He wants the spaces we all associate with art to be filled with works by men and women of color. At the same time, he knows art isn’t defined by the space it’s in. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the artist has marveled at the ingenuity he sees on the streets of Toronto -- and throughout the world.
“We see people literally taking to the streets and painting it in every color imaginable, and doing performative actions, and doing all of these things that institutions couldn’t possibly hold,” he says. “So I’ve also been very interested by the way that the people are creating their own institutions, their own spaces out in the public, free and accessible for all.”