Hear what inspired the colorful “Girl with the D Earring” mural

Artist Sydney James shares why she chose an iconic painting to represent the city of Detroit

Muralist Sydney James on Live in the D

Detroit is known for its grand and vibrant murals that grace the walls of buildings all over the city. The artists who create these masterpieces draw their inspiration from the people and things around them. One of those artists, Sydney James, did just that to create one of the most recognized murals in Detroit. James spoke to Tati Amare to discuss what led her to create “The Girl with the D Earring” mural, and her artistic journey.

James said she drew her inspiration for the mural from the Black women of Detroit, Black people, and the Black experience. The act of “finding their why” in what their purpose is and how they can make an impact is a big influence. James said she began to “find her why” with her artwork during the pandemic; she wanted to see how she could grow in her work from painting on canvases to making creations on a bigger scale. That discovery led her to making “The Girl with the D Earring”, James’ take on the classic painting “Girl with the Pearl Earring”.

When it came to the mural, James said she wanted to show the simplicity and complexity of her work. She wanted to represent not only her body of work, but also the neighborhood the mural is in. She said she took a very recognizable piece of work, and applied it to the beauty that represents Detroit (i.e., the English D, patchwork, current and past businesses).

For more about the inspiration behind Sydney James’ “Girl with the D Earring”, and her other murals watch the video above.