Val Sivilli


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A Righteous Old White Lady

“Nevermind if you think an angry black man is scary …  try dealing with an old white lady when her food order gets screwed up – now that’s scary.”

Incorrectly recalled quote posted via Instagram, tagged to me, her mother, by my 25 year old daughter currently living and working in Philadelphia.

When I get angry I am certain that it is justified. I think of myself as righteous, speaking to power, taking down the man, confronting injustice. Granted it’s mostly when my food order gets screwed up, or when someone is smoking outside an open window while I am eating my lunch, or when someone is at a red light that just turned green and they are still texting, or a cop pulls me over for no apparent reason. It’s always an irritating inept activity that interrupts the illusion of my potentially perfect day coupled with the expectations that we should all do our best all the time.

Like I said – righteous. The scary black man part of the quote was totally lost on me – it was all about me – the scary old white lady.

As a white woman in this world – having been young up until just recently, by the way – I am fully immersed in the illusion that by speaking up I can actually make a difference in the limitations of my fellow human’s activities. If someone is following my car too closely on the one lane road that leads up to my house, I have been known to stop my car, get out and full out tirade on the rudeness and ignorance of such an act. Screaming inconsolably stuff like: “Not only are your headlights blinding me, but there are animals everywhere! Do you know how many deer I have hit on this road? I am not going to kill an animal just because YOU are in a rush! SLOW DOWN! Get off my ass!” Stuff like this. As a young white woman, most of the time, the driver was rendered speechless. As an old white woman, they seem to just want me to die, disappear, evaporate – like some irritating tick bite or bat flying around the house. The response is very different as an old white woman as opposed to a young white woman. Although, if I were a black man – or a black woman for that matter – or just simply just a man (I like the word ‘man’ and ‘simple’ in the same sentence – sorry, knee jerk reaction) 911 would have been called after my license plate was recorded, and I would have been arrested of course assuming that the driver behind me were an old white woman. Because, y’know, that would have been really scary, a violation of an old white woman’s almost perfect day.

What I have come to love about that quote is that, as an old white lady, I am merely a demographic. I am not just an old lady, I am an old WHITE lady. This fact speaks volumes about how people of color have become more viable, more powerful.

This scary old white lady has come to be more ‘woke’ – although I am not totally comfortable using that word, it does feel correct just about now – I have become more and more aware of how race and circumstance effect our behavior.

As an older woman, I am also keenly aware of how I am perceived differently than when I was young. As a young woman, it was difficult to speak to power without being looked at as a sexual object, and a little ‘cute’. Like ‘ok honey,’ whatever you think – that kind of thing. Although I recall, more often, a heightened level of engagement that I do not experience anymore. As an older white woman, when I have almost any interactions, the perception of the lack of my sexuality has become palpable. Almost as if there were something in their heads saying, “she must have been hot when she was young”. Although not sure how much of that is just me. Conversations become tainted by our obsession with youth, as if youth is something to honor in and of itself. We are living in the illusion that being young and sexual is being alive. Now that I am no longer ruled by sexuality, I feel as if I have been freed by the limitations that youth and sexuality had placed upon me. I recently heard a quote on NPR – yes I am one of those old white, righteous ladies that listen to NPR – “If you are lucky, you get to age.”

When we stand up for ourselves we should all expect not to be arrested or shot. We all should expect a perfect day here and there, and not simply the illusion of a perfect day. Hopefully this might happen more often and for more of us regardless of our whiteness, non-whiteness, or for that matter, our age.


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Val Sivillli on view : 2/16 – 3/16 at RVCC Art Gallery !

Heejung Kim and Val Sivilli – RECENT WORKS:

is on view at Raritan Valley Community College until March 16th 2018 at the RVCC ART GALLERY located in the COLLEGE CENTER

 HERE for Map of basement of the COLLEGE CENTER where the Art Gallery is located.

HERE for link to Interactive Campus map.

HERE for a driving map to RVCC.

GALLERY HOURS: Mon: 3 -8 , Tues: 10 – 3 , Wed: 3 – 8 , Thurs: 10 – 6 , Fri: 1-4

I would be happy to meet at the gallery any afternoon during the week if you let me know you are coming.

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Exhibiting at RVCC

Heejung Kim & Val Sivilli: Recent Work
February 16 – March 16
Artists’ Talk: Fri., February 16th; 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Reception: Fri., February 16th; 6:00-7:00 p.m.


Purge and Burn.

Destroying work via the flame can be incredibly cathartic. I have to admit, when I first considered destroying my work was a sour grapes kinda thing. Feeling all sorry for myself. So much Work.. so little interest… not thinking the work is valued in any way except for in my own head.. and I am starting to drown in it. SET IT ON FIRE!!!  But, as fate would have it.. the act of burning the work, created the seeds of yet another creative act – another group of work . yet another conceptual dilemma. The burnt carcasses of the work, the BONES and my friend Laura defined them ARE GORGEOUS and RESONANT!

The most amazing part of this act, is the release of creative energy. the creative energy that is bound in this work, is STUCK… STUCK!  and it continues to suck our attention and energy.   The photos in this post show my last Civilian Art sign (my oild t-shirt business) cut into individual letters, tossed into the blaze one at a time.

The joy in watching these burn was massive. Massive joy – creative energy released to go wherever it needs to go. To land wherever it can, finding someone searching for it… it will find them. xoxoxoxoxo








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“Phoenix Nest” Burn it #5

It seems that 47 year old women tend to be metaphysically obsessed with the Phoenix. I am no different. I was intrigued with the entire thing – the egg, the nest, the burning nest, the consumption by flames, the rebirth. Lot of Phoenix images came out of me that year around 2007. This particular painting was a very colorful nest. It has/d sissle twine fragments embedded in the paint. When I took the painting out of the closet, I thought.. HOW BEAUTIFUL!… BURN THIS FUCKER! Enjoy the flames. It’s so nice to watch a fire, right?