Val Sivilli


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Naming the Beast

Placed within academia, me, a common Long Island girl, a “normal” girl, as my first Lesbian, separatist art school roommate called me, I was tossed into the higher educational system without much preparation.. Without warning.


This  “normal” girl had a very high regard for her “animal” self – her instinctual self. The person that inhales, feels, expresses without thinking, emotes, shoots from the hip, simply LIVES without thinking about it too much, without stopping to think about whether or not what she is thinking is proper, acceptable, okay with the powers that be, socially acceptable. Who Cared? Who gave a flying fuck? Really. She didn’t feel all that normal, she simply FELT.

Academia demanded that she look deep inside herself. Question everything.

That trust in the inner animal began to erode as social etiquette created demands on the external behavior of their being. She began to question her confidence and on occasion she would put herself in check. Actually THINK before she ACTED.

This proved a rather difficult level of behavior to maintain.


Does everyone do that?

How do they do that?

Each time she stopped to think before she acted, she simply stopped.  And then she didn’t act at all. And then everything fell to shit. Fell apart. Disintegrated. And any confidence, witty comment, seed of genius and any idea for a painting, everything just fell apart.


So to be alive, she basically decided, one day, that the inner animal wasn’t such a bad thing. So when she embraced her inner animal, her inner beast, she decided that it needed a name. Although, because she did not know if it was a girl or a boy,the inner animal would need to have a name that was not easily “Gender-fied”.

She thought, or rather.. FELT.. Long and hard. The name eluded her. Each time one came to her mind, it didn’t seem right.  So putting aside the seemingly big black hole of the naming process, she returned to ponder the qualities of her beast.

She imagined that if a person is raised by really gentle, calm parents… Parents that thought long and hard before they said things they regretted or acted in ways that were utterly deplorable, the offspring of those parents might actually be more palatable, more intellectual… CALMER. The ever developing inner animal wouldn’t have a chance to take a foothold and would wither and die and dissolve and probably get sweated out in a really good game of 5th grade kickball.

RATIONAL! What a thought.

But if you are raised by emotion driven, frustrated people who fight a lot with each other, then probably the offspring – ME, in this case  – would be quite ANIMAL … emotionally. Even lashing out at times. Which is so very unsavory in this PC world that we live in right now.

(Peter Lambdin… Where are your offspring?)

People who have taught you that the world is out to get you, a place to be feared and suspected, then maybe fear and suspicion will drive your reactions.


If we are so blessed, we all grow up, you say, and I say that too, we all grow up. Become adults.

Become somewhat rational adults, if all goes well.

Then everything becomes so friggin’









Ugh…. Uninspired.. The worst possible thing I could think of.


I think my animal’s name is Spire.

Now we Eat… CHEERS!



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Opening and closing the doors and windows a bit slower.

Part of being in another place is listening to the local public radio. Pure joy really. Except when you find yourself listening to Ravel’s Bolero.

I just couldn’t help felling really sorry for the drum section. So repetitive. A bit of torture. But it’s the only station that comes in clearly, so I’ve been committed to it in the same way I’ve been committed to WHYY in New Jersey.

By the end of the piece, I felt a bit of a lift and it was very subtle and kinda peaceful. Since staying with the station is a bit of a commitment the benefit from paying attention to something I would usually not, was a great thing.

The pianist who was the guest on the program, Jade Simmons, stated that one of her professors told her that in playing and writing her music, she opened doors too quickly and closed windows too fast. Meaning that she was not enjoying the process. She was not entirely IN the playing, the making. Allowing the piece to resonate. What she loved about Bolero, was that the piece allowed itself to unravel slowly and methodically… Totally immersed in itself.

True words of wisdom.

She plays some beautiful pieces.. Worth a listen. Here’s the link.



For the first time in over 2 weeks, I had a REAL nights sleep, FINALLY. I’ve been beyond tired.

When I was 19 years old, I was determined to quit art school and move up to Woodstock, NY and become a potter. So, knowing nothing about how to actually do that, I drove up to Woodstock from my parents Long Island home in the early spring and found a potters assistant job and an apartment. The apartment cost $200. a month and the job paid $85. a week. With a little waitressing job on the side, everything was fine, I had plenty of money until I totalled my cute little car and had to hitch hike everywhere. So it lasted almost a year, after which I returned to art school, only to abandon pottery for printmaking.

It turned out that I loved Leslie, learned about the business and all the ins and out of running a ceramics studio BUT I really did not like her pottery. I learned to throw EXACTLY like her. To make a long story short, I acquired some bad habits. Habits that needed to be unlearned.

The next summer, I attended Alfred University’s summer ceramics program. It was there I learned how hard it is to unlearn bad habits. It was a painful process.

Right now, at the Wurlitzer, there is a whole lot of “Unlearning” going on. After 20 years of creating images that don’t offend, images that have a tighter graphic quality and are easily understood, I need to unlearn the habit of self-censoring, self editing.

Here are a few of the the things I have “relearned”

1. Unless you are totally stuck, NEVER show anyone a painting in progress.

2. The subject does NOT need to be outlined.. DUH!

3. Sometimes the painting is finished before it looks refined.

4. The work will probably offend SOMEONE.

5. I can paint the same subject matter over and over again with varying viewpoints, varying palettes, varying sizes, varying media. Only then will it’s multi dimensional secrets begin to unravel.

Unfortunately, someone nominated me to do this Facebook 5 day challenge. Whoever started this should be smacked. But, because I really love Facebook and I have respect for the protocol of Facebook, I relented and obeyed. So my blog has taken a bit of a back seat these last few days. Also I have been away from my studio for a few days.

There’s a painting on the wall right now but you can’t see it because it’s not done yet!!!!

See, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.



DNA .. Bloodlines … Ancestry … Naples .. Bari …

When I went to Italy, I stood outside of a the Hotel Luna in Amalfi. I have been told that the Barbaro’s, my mothers family on my grandfathers side, owned and operated that Hotel. I walked inside. I was fully prepared to introduce myself. I then realized I knew nothing of why my grandfather left Italy. Why he no longer worked or lived in Amalfi. Why he went to the United States. I thought, “Maybe there is some old blood feud I know nothing about. ”


So I walked back out and never said a word.

There is an unknowable part of myself that seems to be dictated by the heritage that is Napolitan. I have acquired a raw, somewhat irrational, sometimes violent, always ridiculously emotional inheritance. Dictated by knee jerk reactions and always large matters of the heart. Sometimes overly laborious exhaustingly philosophical internal and sometimes external diatribes.

This unknowable side sometimes seem like a foreigner. Someone I watch reacting to the world. I watch my emotions shift and change and anger spikes and wanes. Blame regurgitates and redirects and it is almost always somewhat undefinable.

The Romulus and Remus statue in Rome was beautiful to see. I was alone in the piazza with it for a long time when I was in Rome. Almost as if no one else was interested in it at the time. It was kind of odd. But I loved it.

I think Naples has a wild boar as it’s surrogate birth mother. At least, I think I have been nurtured and fed and weened on the tit of the wild boar. What else could possibly be the explanation for the foreign being that reacts without thinking. Emotes without provocation. Becomes somewhat possessed in situations that are out of my control.

It could be.

Maybe that’s the animal lineage that lurks within this southern Italian woman.

Anyway, this is the musing of this painting.

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Ha! Well yeah, this is where I’m going I guess. The obvious reference from the statue of Romulus and Remus suckling from the she-wolf. Not sure how much explanation this really needs if you read

The Wild Bore, Chapter 1

I’ve successfully liberated myself from illustrating the story with paintings. Whew!



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Making friends with the Moon.

Sleeping has not been coming easy since I left New Jersey. I’m used to a full uninterrupted 7 hours and that’s just not happening. It’s like I’m In a Twilight kinda resting thing. I finally put some heavier curtains over the windows since the moon is so bright. A local woman told me to “make friends with the moon”. But since it’s really cold here at night, I haven’t gone out and introduced myself as yet. I suppose that is up to me as the moon is trying to make its way into my little casita, and I am simply pissed off that it is trying to do just that. I will go outside this evening and make acquaintance in a more formal way.

New Mexico kinda requires pragmatic New York cynicism to unravel. Otherwise, I would be inclined to run back east as fast as I can. It’s definitely closer to the world of the spirit here. It’s the land of Mañana. Everyone has always told me that. I think they are correct. There is something incredibly magical about this place.

I went to my first open mike on Monday night. It was time. I needed some tavern type interaction. If it weren’t for the adobe walls and all the turquoise, I would have though the crowd was a frenchtown/upperblackeddy crowd. A woman playing the banjo was on stage and she could very well have been Shekina. Her partner was a beautiful dreadlocked woman singing and playing guitar. I felt instantly at home.

The open mike tribe is here in Taos.

I played 3 songs, 2 originals… The altitude was really compromising my voice, but I forged ahead regardless. I basically sucked, but it was fine to not be at my best. It didn’t matter. I’ve always put so much pressure on myself to play well in public, and have felt bad about myself when I haven’t.

But that’s changed. I don’t need to be a great musician. Music is my best friend, always has been. But I’ve put way too much pressure on myself to perform the best I can. All that pressure has taken the joy out of it. I am now embracing the flaws, the inconsistencies, the memory lapses that age brings, the rhythm quirks that happen because of not practicing enough, the incorrect chord, note, etc… All fine. It’s not important.

I’ve discovered that playing music gives me energy. It’s not like I didn’t know this, but it’s as if I just discovered it fresh and new. Music taps into the life force. The life force that give me energy to paint. I knew this, but it’s become crystal clear since I’ve been here. Letting go of having to be perfect, and beating myself up if I’m not, is allowing music to BE all the magic it can be.

Maybe I’ll play a song for the moon tonight.

Maybe she’ll let me sleep.