Alumni Spotlight: Sigrid Burton '69

Burton ’69, poses with her dog, Jasper, and her painting in the background.

Wayne Shimabukuro
By Jacqueline Y. 
May 20, 2019

This issue’s alumni spotlight focuses on Sigrid Burton, ’69. This year’s Alumnae Ranney recipient, Sigrid attended UC Berkeley and then transferred to Bennington College before graduating.  Spyglass spoke to Burton about her upcoming art exhibition, her reception of the Ranney Award, and advice for future artists.

 

Q: What are you doing currently? What is keeping you busy these days? 

A: I’m a painter. I have an exhibition coming up in March 2020 at Tufenkian Fine Arts in Glendale—a one-person show. Currently, I’m working on the show and painting some more art pieces.

 

Q: How did you end up in the arts?

A: Probably because I love to get dirty and love absolutely everything about painting, oil paints especially. I love the smell, the color, and the texture of paints, along with the process of putting paint on canvas. I was always quite involved with the arts, and I attended adult classes even when I was young in Pasadena while growing up.

 

Q: How has Westridge affected your career and where you are today? 

A: When I was at Westridge, I was taught the greatest lesson: that it was okay to screw up or fail. If you’re only doing things that you know how to do brilliantly, then you’re not really challenging yourself. You have to be willing to make a mistake or try something you haven’t done before, and I think Westridge encourages that as part of the program. The opportunity to go to a single-sex school was really valuable as well from a self-confidence point of view. I think the friendships that I developed there both with the students and faculty have been really critical in my ongoing life.

 

Q: How did you feel about hearing the news that you were chosen for the Ranney Recipient Award this year?

A: I was quite overwhelmed, and I felt like I would have to spend the rest of my life living up to having won the award. I was meeting with Lisa Vandergriff in the Alumni office, and she said Elizabeth McGregor wanted to talk to me. I went in to see Liz, who told me, and I immediately started crying and became quite overwhelmed. I was quite excited, knowing it was a huge honor to win in a group of very, very admirable women.


 

Q: What advice would you give to students who want to pursue a career in the arts?

A: Women in the arts tend to be undervalued and underappreciated. Most of the top galleries show a very small percentage of women artists who are represented in museum collections. If you like making art, it’s a wonderful career for yourself. However, it’s a very tough career to have recognition and deep success in, and it’s also very uneven. I’ve had peak moments where I’ve had several galleries and shows, and then I could go years without having any shows, and not selling work to anyone, which could be very discouraging. You have to be able to get through the discouragement. Most people that have stayed with their art careers, it’s really only the only thing you can do. There’s some element of it that’s a little bit compulsive in terms of what I do—I make stuff—and I’m never really happier than when I’m productive in my studio. That said, there have been a lot of times where I’m in my studio and I’m not productive, and it’s incredibly depressing, lonely, and challenging, because you’re a little bit in solitary confinement. There’s never a real moment of satisfaction that you get for a very long time. The process is more important than the product. The engagement with the producing of it is more fulfilling than the career aspects, which can be very discouraging, similar to all the arts.