Creative Director. Graphic Designer. Fearless Artist.
Detroit-based artist Sarey Ruden’s project Sareytales is a collection of art and designs inspired by the creepy, cruel and misogynistic messages she has received during her online dating journey. Using her art and design background, quirky brand of dark humor plus personal experience and insight, Sarey turns tragic dating app messages into fearless and thought-provoking works of art. Leveraging art as its medium, the Sareytales platform hopes to increase awareness to the cyber-bullying and sexual harassment culture that is so prevalent in the digital dating world.
What began as a fun little project conceiving clever designs from cruel words has turned into something much larger. Sarey’s art is sold in boutiques, pop-up shops, art fairs and subscription boxes, reaching thousands of people globally. Her work has been included in gender studies course discussions at Michigan State University and Texas Women’s University, as well as in research papers focusing on feminism and modern art. She also has participated in international art shows from Detroit to San Francisco, from Seattle to London, with more events and collaborations on the horizon.
Sareytales has become more than a pet project, it has become a movement. The message her art conveys is provocative yet relatable, and empowers others to stand up to the toxic masculinity, gaslighting, negging and other injustices all too common in the online dating world. Join Sarey as she turns ugly into art, one text at a time.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. After graduating from the University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design in Ann Arbor, I moved to NYC where I pursued a career in advertising as an art director. It was due to an unfortunate series of events (being let go from my job during the recession of 2009, being dumped by my boyfriend, and facing an expiring apartment lease) that I decided to head home to Michigan in the fall of 2009.
Tell us about your vision, or mission. What’s ahead for you and/or your career?
My project “Sareytales: The Art of Online Dating” is a collection of art and designs inspired by the creepy, cruel and misogynistic messages I have received, and continue to receive, during my online dating journey. Using my art and design background, quirky brand of dark humor plus personal experience and insight, I transform tragic dating app messages into fearless and thought-provoking works of art. Leveraging contemporary and feminist art as its medium, the Sareytales platform hopes to increase awareness to the cyber-bullying and sexual harassment culture that is so prevalent in the digital dating world.
We love people who break the boundaries and relentlessly push toward their goals. That said, what drives you? Was there an event, or personal moment that triggered it all?
I have been online dating since its inception. My first attempt was on Jdate (beta) when I was a junior in college. I should have cut my losses then and just never log in to another dating site again. But I guess, deep down, beneath all the rage and hostility, I am a romantic at heart. Which explains why years, a decade later, I found myself still on dating sites, but now they were apps. And while I had always received creepy emails from men on Jdate, or Match, or eHarmony, there was a new wave of harassment that came along with the swiping apps and texting. There was an immediacy, and intimacy even, to receiving insults real time. After a particularly cruel message (which I can recite verbatim to this day), an idea popped in my head. What if I could take these cruel words, intended to belittle, degrade and make me feel less than, and recontextualize them. Take away their power by reclaiming the words as my own, but as art. So, in the fall of 2016, that’s what I started to do. I took the small collection of screen shots I had been hoarding for years and began creating typographic designs, posters mostly, of the worst messages I had received. I started an Instagram account to post them to, and I decided to call the account “Sareytales”. The name comes from a former boss of mine who would also call my dating stories “Sareytales”, a play on fairytales. So, Ken, thanks for the namesake!
Have you been rejected along the way? How did you feel? How did you overcome it?
Oh yes have I been rejected. I get rejected nearly daily, actually. There is an art to handing rejection not only with grace, but with humility and the understanding that being rejected doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, it just means this wasn’t your opportunity. It’s humbling to be rejected, and I have learned to accept the bad along with the good. For every art show, business pitch, literary I lose, I know there is something else waiting for me down the road.
If you could offer a piece of wisdom/advice to someone who is ready to break their own boundaries, what would you tell them?
Listen to your intuition. If it feels right, do it, and keep doing it, even when you don’t see progress. To me, success is consistency, and consistently doing the work even when you aren’t getting awards or recognition. It’s being diligent and committed to your project, even when, and especially when, others’ doubt you.
What mantra do you would want the world to remember you by?
She lived a life she made for herself.
What does it mean to you to be fueled by choice?
Choice is the ultimate expression of freedom. The ability to choose what you want to do, and how you want to do it, is the greatest accomplishment anyone can achieve.
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