Wet Paint in the Wild: Martine Syms Parties With Fellow Artist Diamond Stingily and Hits the Awards Circuit With Her Directorial Debut ‘The African Desperate’

The artist takes us through a week in her life.

Martine Syms.

Welcome to Wet Paint in the Wild, the freewheeling—and free!—spinoff of Artnet News Pro’s beloved Wet Paint gossip column, where we give art-world insiders a disposable camera to chronicle their lives on the circuit. To read the latest Wet Paint column, click here (members only).

Martine Syms is the ultimate multi-hyphenate artist. I first fell in love with her work at the Whitney Biennial in 2019 where her piece, Intro to Threat Modeling, stole the show in my opinion, and since then, her work has continued to astound me in new and inventive ways (if you haven’t seen her feature film The African Desperate yet, I’d highly recommend it). The artist was an obvious pick for a week in the wild, and she even wrote her own intro to her photo essay. Without further ado…

Three weeks ago, I was in Mexico in an unnamed beach town with my dear friend Cassie Marketos. My other friend Mariko was there the previous month and gave me a detailed note with all the tea for vacation in a box. Every day I surfed, swam, wandered, read, and laid around naked. I spoke my baby Spanish and cooked simple meals. 

One of the books I was reading was Fanny Howe’s ‘The Wedding Dress,’ which was sent to me by my friend and art dealer Marta Fontalan. I just went to grab it off the shelf and remembered I let Cassie borrow it. 

There is a chapter about bewilderment and learning to find yourself in the dark. I’ve been enjoying (accepting?) this moment of confusion. Ursula Le Guin says that it is my country. I’m living through the night, making a home here. 

I pulled the Moon again last night. 

In no apparent order:

This is my studio. It was Oscar weekend. I had dinner with Mia Goth at Chateau Marmont (along with 30 of our closest friends) courtesy of Prada. Then Janicza Bravo and I went to the CAA Oscar Party at Sunset Tower (I am a Tower Girl if you must know, obviously). Morgan Freeman was the first person we saw and he welcomed us with open arms. Later, I went to Daniel Kaluuya’s party at the Black Soho House. On the way there, I talked to Hans Ulrich Obrist on the phone. I came home and remembered I forgot to take pictures. I took this one to remember.

This was from last year when I did the toad. This was just before. It was on the same roll. Also, time doesn’t really exist. My shaman used to be Meghan Markle’s stylist.

Vegyn aka Joe in my studio sometime in time. We were playing guitar. He sent me a cute track that I wrote a song to, and then later turned into a drawing. The drawing also has one of his footprints on it.

It’s 2:22pm right now. This is a cute photo of Farah Al Qasimi. She brought me and Diamond some gifts from home. Also featuring Diamond’s hand. We were at a bar in Bed-Stuy and I was drinking a hojicha cocktail.

Erin Meuchner and Brent David Freaney in front of my artwork at Brent’s. This was right before we watched MILF MANOR, and right after Erin and I came back from MoMA where you can see my work at “Lessons in SIGNALS: How Video Transformed the World.” Stuart Comer gave us a tour of the show and I met his parents. I’m obsessed with many works in the show but the Gretchen Bender and Dara Birnbaum installations knocked me out. There’s also a brilliant Bender install downstairs in the collection show, alongside a rarely seen Theo Eshetu video, and Diamond Stingily sculptures!!!

Last year, I won a Herb Alpert Award! As part of this incredible prize, you do a weeklong residency at CalArts. CalArts and I have a long spiralic relationship. I was happy to be there. I stayed at the Valencia Hyatt—highly recommend, it’s basically in a mall and there’s a pool, room service, and a movie theater. It was the full moon; I asked Ruby McCollister what she thought it meant and she said to “GO FORTH AND DIVA.” I haven’t looked back since. This is Bethlehem Tsehai, MFA Art 2. We had a fun conversation about anger.

The African Desperate was nominated for a John Cassavetes Award at the 2023 Independent Spirit Awards. Cassavetes is one of my heroes and I’m proud to be recognized in his honor. I’d never been to an award show. Vic said it was similar to a wedding in that you’re dressed in formalwear at 11 a.m. and drinking bourbon by noon.

This is us at 11 a.m. Me, co-writer/producer Rocket Caleshu, producer Vic Brooks, and #1 on the call sheet, Diamond Stingily. We look like a band who’s been together for a while, we’ve grown a lot, and have never sounded better. Not pictured: Daisy Zhou and Evan Calder Williams, who joined us later for the party part.

Diamond wearing Women’s History Museum.

Me out in the valley the previous day. My sister Joy Yoon let me borrow some Comme Des Garçons, Molly Goddard, and Noir Kei Ninomiya for the Spirits. She lives in a cool midcentury house and we set off a tulle bomb. Then after Yoon nailed the look for me, we went to pick up some Zankou for the family. My nephew Alden was drunk off birthday cake. He said to me, “You’re not a good boy, you’re just a MOM!” Little does he know I am neither.

Tulle bomb in the guest bedroom. If I could just wear puffs all day, I would.

Bridget Donahue, BFF/art dealer, next to Mark Van Yetter’s painting. I was struck by the fish sitting in a chair. Felt like a cousin to the feminist fish that rides bicycles. I took a photo of Nik and Sabrina too but it didn’t come out well. Neither did my pics of Cheryl Dunye. Anyway, after this we went to see The Seagull/Woodstock, NY starring Parker Posey, Nat Wolff, Hari Nef, and several other babes. And after that, we got drinks at Marseille. I was reading The Seagull earlier this year after my acting classmate Shamin Shukkoor inspired me. Shamin was reading one of Konstantin’s monologues. I also forgot to take a picture of my acting class but I’m learning a lot from them all.

Laurel Halo in the studio after we took some photos for her album cover.

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