Sarey Ruden is a graphic designer who has worked in Detroit and New York. The Art of Online Dating: Sareytales are original designs and illustrations inspired by real text messages received during online dating experiences. Using design, humor, and personal insight, Sarey hopes to use her art to increase awareness of the online dating cyberbullying culture.
1. Tell us about your background and what inspired you to create this body of work.
I have always been involved with art and design, and love the creative process of developing something from nothing. I attended the University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design, graduating in 2003 with a BFA in graphic design. Shortly after graduating, I moved to New York City to purse a career in advertising. Fast forward 7 years and I found myself back in Detroit, still working as an art director and still in advertising, and still single. About two years ago I received a particularly hurtful message from a guy on a dating app I had been on one date with. On a whim, I felt compelled to turn his ugly words into something more. At first my pieces were mainly typographic designs, black and white, more focused on the messages I had received. The design process was cathartic to me, it helped me to see the bigger picture. These terrible messages weren’t a reflection of me, but rather, of the toxic masculinity poisoning our culture.
2. Tell us about some of the responses to your art. Are you still online dating?
From the very first post, the reaction has been immensely supportive. I had no idea how many other women received these types of messages, and how that shared experience was something people were excited to talk about, to commiserate. While the reaction on-line has always been positive, it’s been the in person response that has really inspired me to continue to create my art.
Women, and men, young, old, very old, gay, straight, and everything in between have experienced the same cyber-bullying abuse which I have. It is really amazing when I see peoples’ faces go from mild interest, to shock, to laughter once they understand the concept of my art. It’s that reaction, that evolution of understanding, that really inspires me. I definitely source messages from other women, it’s one of the parts I love most about what I am doing. Being able to incorporate other people’s experiences into my narrative is incredibly fulfilling. Yes, I am still online dating. While I am very cautious about who I open up to, I am hopeful that there are still good guys out there.
3. How do you feel about the current culture shift? Did you imagine that your project would evolve into the platform it has?
It is a privilege to be able to share my story, especially during the time of the #metoo movement, and other cultural and political events. It was just a coincidence that I began Sareytales around the 2016 presidential election. My message of empowering women and bringing awareness to sexual harassment and cyber-bullying was attributed even a deeper meaning due to the tumultuous political climate of late. I had no idea this project would evolve into the platform is has become,
and is it truly humbling.
4. Recently, you produced new pieces inspired by the Kavanaugh hearings. Do you think you will move further in a political direction?
I think Sareytales has the ability to start a conversation about politics, women’s rights, reproductive rights, mental health awareness, cyber-bullying, racism, sexism, or any topic, because all my art is inspired by statements that people are talking about in real life. I definitely want to continue doing more political pieces. I think political art is an important form of expression, and the only way to bring about change is to educate and inspire those around you.
My “Allegedly” Series was really satisfying to create, and I am happy it was so well received. In a weird way, I am more concerned about offending people politically than I am with my more erotic pieces!
5. What led you to expand from two-dimensional work on to three-dimensional work? What are your future plans?
On the move from 2-D to 3-D pieces, I was feeling antsy, restless, stifled even, by the constraints of 2-dimensional work. I felt like my messages were getting lost in the flatness of my own designs. The idea to incorporate more 3-dimensional techniques happened slowly, but I think at a pace I could master. At first I started incorporating more texture into my work. From gemstones and paint, to makeup and animation, to polymer clay sculptures, acrylic, and now ice-cream cones! I love having an arsenal of techniques to chose from when rendering new pieces. It keeps my art fresh, and my audience guessing.
My future plans are diverse, and probably a little lofty, but I am excited to see how far I can push myself. I recently completed my “UDP Project”. (“UDP” is an Unsolicited Dick Pic, for those not in the know.) I worked over the summer on perfecting my molding technique, and am happy to announce that my UDP project is ready to be viewed. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I am hoping to have it on display at this year’s Dirty Show.
Extra Credit: If you could choose any public building in which to display your artwork, which one would it be and why?
I would love to have my work displayed in the MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit). They have an amazing curation of edgy, contemporary and smart collections, and I would be honored to have a piece or two included in their space.
See Sarey Ruden's Work
- Artist Spotlight at Axle Brewing Co. in Ferndale (November 1-30, 2018)
- Raw Artists: Ovation at Saint Andrew’s Hall in Detroit (November 15, 2018)