Val Sivilli


BIO- Artist Statement 2-2018

Val Sivilli
BIO & Artist Statement
February 2018

“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.

ARTIST STATEMENT for RVCC Installation – Feb, 2018

The large wall of drawings are from the series “57” simply because I started the series on my 57th birthday. It was the heat of the 2016 presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I typed each day’s news broadcast over a drawing sketched that same morning. I succeeded in my goal until March of 2017 not long after the Women’s March in Washington, DC. What you see here is a little over 6 months of daily sketches and typing. Crazy did not begin to describe it. I had to stop the project to preserve my sanity.

These drawings are from observation.  I find the mindful act of sketching from life incredibly meditative. The radio or the TV or a some random conversation was almost always audible background noise. As Americans, there is constant chatter that never seems to let up. We hear opinions from some ‘expert’, the weather guy going crazy, etc. We rarely experience silence. What became fascinating and disturbing to me while creating this work, is our tolerance as Americans for the way in which our news is delivered. We move from a devastating earthquake, to a mass shooting, to a car commercial, to a fast food commercial, to a drug commercial promising to lower our cholesterol from all the fast food we consume, to the talking heads that deliver that news, to fictionalized dramas pulled from reality and the other way around, from laughing to crying in an instant. It is mind boggling. It’s a miracle we aren’t all insane.

For a week at a time, I sketched the same subject – a shoe, or a gun, or a roll of toilet paper or money then I typed the news directly over each drawing. I planned to exhibit these in groups of seven, the magical number “7”. 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.

In our country, in 2018, shocking as it is, Tammy Duckworth is our very first sitting senator that will give birth while serving in office. I would love a count of the men whose children were born while serving in office. The direction of our country is mind boggling. By March 2017, I needed to hide in my studio and paint colorful, creamy, yummy ice cream cones in an attempt to recover from the chaos of those 6 months.

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.