Val Sivilli



Val Sivilli


The Assassin (sight) paintings are inspired by the women of the circus. These women chose to live a life not limited by societal options. The circus is ferocious and is made of sweat, flesh, ritual and community. The visual fanfare of the circus has sparked the muse for centuries and as well, it has sparked mine. The circus is a window into the perplexing state of my country and exposes the seedy nature of our politics. . The jester was the original spokesperson for “Truth to Power” speaking freely, in verse and without overt fear of retribution.

The images of a pistol pointing at you has great power. It has been explored many times in many different art forms – painting, performance, theater, film, silkscreen, etc. The women in these paintings confront the viewer, call them on shortcomings, repetitive patterns and limitations. They call to task – to act, to think, to stop and ultimately, to redirect.

My studio practice demands that I respect the craft of painting. This absolute joy I find in the studio allows me to confront these issues and to place them onto the canvas. This joy facilitates my ability to contribute to the current conversation.  Without the joy I get from my craft – the composition, color choices, the feel and the smell of the paint, the journey of that particular piece, all of the rituals involved in making a painting – this work would not exist.


“You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself”
― Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Quite accidentally, as a young woman, I found myself married, buying a house, raising a family and making art along the banks of the Delaware River in Frenchtown NJ. This came after a life in Brooklyn, completing an MFA at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers, showing at various venues in the city and being a long time assistant to both Nancy Spero and Leon Golub.

Although it proved to be trickier to live as an artist in Hunterdon County, I created a lot of artwork during the ‘mom’ years. Work that referred to an external world combined with a little bit of a crazy internal world. Raising a family and living in a small town came with a huge set of challenges. These challenges were mostly financial, although I spent a lot of energy preserving my identity as an artist and as a woman. I spend the better part of 20 years slinging my brash, bold, mouthy self at this place. I was determined that my edge would not be diminished by Hunterdon County. It was a challenge, but I survived it, raised my kids up, sent them off into the world and most importantly, managed not to get arrested.

My first encounter with the challenge of living in Hunterdon County, historically a farming community, were a series of letters written to the editor of the Hunterdon County Democrat, our local weekly newspaper. There were regular articles and letters to the editor in support of bringing the Bible back into the classroom. Where did I move?? What did I do to my life??? I was convinced that there had to be other like-minded folks in Hunterdon County. It was the 1990’s and pretty much the modern age. The more of these letters I wrote, the more of these people I met. People that believed and lived by the separation of church and state. Many of these people were artists, writers, actors, musicians – my Tribe!!

Having begun to meet my Tribe, I collaborated with other artists in Frenchtown. I had a one-person show at The Hunterdon Art Museum. I also founded and directed the Steamroller Gallery, a cooperative gallery comprised of 12 local artists. The STEAMROLLER proved a great place for local artists to meet each other, exhibit the kind of art that Hunterdon County residents did not usually see exhibited in the county. By 2017 I accumulated many connections in the area. As an Adjunct Professor of Art at both RVCC, TCNJ and at BUCKS I gained the confidence to spearhead “THAT” – The Hunterdon Art Tour. We had a hugely successful tour last May, of 2017, and are currently accepting artists and galleries and robust destinations to be a part of THAT for May of 2018.


For a week at a time from August 9th 2016  through to March 2017, I drew the same object – a shoe, a roll of tape, or a gun, or a roll of toilet paper or money – things that we tend to overlook, but are ever-present in our visual landscape.  I then typed the news directly over each drawing. Each morning at about 8am, I would stream CBS live, with Nora O’Donnell, Gail King and yes, Charlie Rose. I would put on my headphones, sit at my desk, try to type “Your world in 90 seconds” over the drawing that I sketched earlier that same morning. I tried to keep up with the speed of the delivery of the news, but I never could. The work is titled  “57” simply because I started the series on my 57th birthday.  I typed each day’s news broadcast over a drawing sketched that same morning. The project lasted until March of 2017 not long after the Women’s March in Washington, DC.

My Materials:

I am an American. Our country puts its students in unbelievable debt serving the banking industry, saddling our youth with huge high interest loans. This same banking industry bleeds our communities using their profit margins to support big oil and big box stores. In every American town, these same stores are taking over our communities. This is the face of “Citizen’s United” the most subversive and misleading term meant to gain the support of those folks that simply listen and accept as truth the voice of big, male, loud, white, rich businessmen and politicians.

“57” used only materials purchased from big box stores:

o Strathmore Sketch Pads, Basics Acrylic Pain purchased with a 40% off coupon from Michaels
o An RSVP medium point black pen purchased by the dozen from Staples.
o Gorilla Tape and Luna Plywood form Home Depot.

PROJECTS & Shorter BIO  

Currently and for the past 3 years, I have been working with a unique and amazing team of artists in Hunterdon County. We have created  THAT: The Hunterdon Art Tour.  2018 was our second year.  Because I raised my children in Frenchtown and have lived through the cultural limitations present in this county, I feel the responsibility to continue to bring the awareness of the pivotal role of the artist to my home. Wonderful things can happen when exposing a community to the power of real art.  This past winter, I co-curated, with Catherine Suttle, an exhibition called “Keepers of the Chroma” at the Center for Contemporary Art, in Bedminster NJ. I teach Color Theory, Drawing, BookArts and Printmaking as an Adjunct Professor of Art at both Raritan Valley Community College and Bucks Community College. I was born in Brooklyn raised on Long Island. My undergraduate studies were done at both SUNY Purchase and Alfred University. My graduate work was at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers. From 1984 to 1991, I was the studio assistant to both Nancy Spero and Leon Golub. You might know me from the now retired Civilian Art.

email.    or   cell. 908-268-2843