Val Sivilli


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TRUMPcare – or not earning 100K by the time you are 50.

There’s a day you wake up and find yourself in your mid fifties. It’s a day of reckoning – a day stained with regret – a day that is repeated over and over. Each time it revisits, an army of defenses are called upon to justify, rationalize, beat the fuck up, sob wildly about and finally, at some point, to simply get on with your day. Because really, it’s pretty much always about just getting through the day. And somehow you do. If that day proves a bit more encouraging than the last day, the next morning has a better chance of being free of this drama. I’m not sure what happens when you wake up one morning and realize that you are in your mid-sixties. I am hoping that knowing that I will have a sense of Security – SOCIAL security – a check coming in every month, a tiny pension from the state of New Jersey for my 20 years of service to the state, and Medicare. I will have health care for the remainder of my life. Or will I? 

I have been an Adjunct Professor of Fine Art for the better part of my adult life. That pretty much means that if you work really really hard wherever you are, you have no job security, the faculty will try to suck you dry and then just hire someone outside the college for that full time position when it becomes available. But I never did allow the faculty to suck me dry. I couldn’t. I was way too busy being a Mother and running a business as well as Teaching. I did not have the time to do all those extra things that would put me in good favor at the schools. I simply taught my classes. I taught as well as I could. Sometimes better than other times. And I went home. I had to tend to my children. I had to tend to my business. I had to pick up the house after my husband watched the kids. 

I got divorced. 

I am now one of those people between 50 and 65 who will be asked to pay 5x as much for health insurance as a 25 year old. 

I was listening to Terry Gross interviewing Francis Ford Coppola about the GodFather a few weeks ago. He was the director of the GodFather, in case you are too young to remember that. Anyway, he hired a lot of unknown young actors to play the roles of the mafia kids, the mafia kids wives, husbands, etc… but when it came to hiring the actor that played the GodFather, he knew that he had to hire an actor that was already established. And here is what he said about why he had to do that. Because if someone was in their mid-fifties, and did not have a successful career, what have they been doing all these years?  

Right. What have I been doing all these years? Those of us that are not at the pinnacle of our careers, not earning 100K or more by the time we are in our fifties deserve this TRUMPcare.  

So basically, this is what I hear in my head:  

“You are over fifty and you cant afford health insurance? Really, you don’t have a job that pays for your health insurance? Really? You are that much of a failure that you cant afford this? Well then.. You should really just not have any access to health care. If you have an illness, it will simply kill you and you wont be a burden on the already burdened Social Security system and you wont suck the life out of Medicare. Because You will be dead. And your failures will die with you.” 

But, that’s on a bad day.  

On a GOOD day, I know that everything is ephemeral, and that I am not a leach on society, that I try my hardest, and that I give back where I can, and that I have the best stuff this life can offer. Ultimately, I know that I am basically in charge of my own health. That the better I take care of me, the less I am a burden on society.  

So, there it is. Being in charge of myself. And that’s the way it should be, the way it needs to be.  

It’s just sad that right now we as a nation are simply in survival mode as opposed to striving for excellence, for Art, for Music, to saving the beauty that is this planet and to share the wealth. It’s as if our frontal lobes are collectively shrinking. It’s a sad time. Although – because I am hellbent on making this good day – I will revel in the fact that this planet is filled with like minded individuals. And that the powers that are running our planet currently with greed and narrow mindedness propelling their agenda, will not prevail.  

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VISITING ARTIST Val Sivilli shares insights at Del Val High School

Written by Rick Epstein

Holland Township painter Val Sivilli and her inner beast were featured at this month’s installment of the Second Breakfast Visiting Artist Series on Friday.

The series is held monthly in Sarah Ruppert’s art room during lunchtime, and students and staff are invited to attend. Lunch is BYO, but so far coffee and doughnut Munchkins have been provided. The purpose is to connect students with artists in the community.

Ms. Sivilli teaches visual arts at Raritan Valley and Bucks County community colleges. She also creates images that are used to promote Frenchtown’s Bastille Day and Riverfest.
She grew up on Long Island and played classical piano as a child, but at age 15 discovered that “music wasn’t feeding me back,” and switched to visual art.
She studied printmaking at the State University of New York at Purchase and then pottery at Alfred University. Later, when she lived in Frenchtown, she had a shop in town called “Civilian,” that sold T-shirts bearing her original designs.
In recent years, no longer married and with her children grown up and moved out, she worked on “rediscovering who I am.” And in doing so, found that “there’s an uncontrollable beast inside me, and I need to deal with that.”
In drawings and paintings, she depicts that inner beast as a wild boar. In one series, each of the drawings has been run through an actual old-school typewriter. The artist typed right over the drawings, a double-spaced text drawn from the “running barrage” of TV news broadcasts that creates an unpleasant, media-laden “soup” in which we dwell. Her text is full of typos and sometimes her own emotional reactions to political developments show through.
Now, admittedly addicted to pounding typewriter keys, Ms. Sivilli has embarked on a year-long project in which she makes a drawing every day and then covers it with a wash of typewriting. As in the boar series, the words generally are taken from stressful political reportage. But they also include stray phrases from TV commercials.
She says she is doing more drawing and painting from life these days, finding that it provides an artist with visual information that can be called upon later when painting something imagined.
Although as an adult she and Alex Wolfson of Alexandria Township have performed as Val and the Mighty Mojo, she urged the students toward “streamlining and focusing on one direction,” such as visual art or music or writing, the better to “find excellence.”

As the year progresses, Del Val art teachers Jason Farnsworth and Mrs. Ruppert will host ceramicist Phil Henderson, woodworker Bret Cavanaugh, tattoo artist Dutch Cooke and calligrapher Catherine Lent.

Monkeys and Chimps

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Hunterdon FERN

This past weekend, on the Friday night before Christmas, a group of very energetic and bold wonderful artists put together a pop up exhibition at the Prallsville Mills in Stockton, NJ. It was filled with artists from the county and beyond. Just bring your work! A wonderful night, wonderful energy. Barry purchased this little piece for me. It is called”Hunterdon Fern” and it is painted by an artist living in Milford. Her name is Erika Rachel.


It was very modestly priced. It is small, maybe 9×12″ in total. You can see the fern beyond a splash of paint. That the frame ties it into the legacy of painting in our area. It says a lot to me about living as an artist in Hunterdon County.

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Bison, Bison, Bison or WART BABY

Something I wrote with levity this past summer.

After treated a mysterious and painful rash on my hands with super duper cortisone infused hand cream and an intense and long prednisone session, the dermatologist froze off this very old wart that has lived on the palm of my hand since jeez I don’t know know when really. I just know it’s been gross and I’ve tried to get rid of it myself… Although I am super duper chicken shit and would not let a doctor freeze if off because I’m sure it would have felt like someone was holding a match to the delicate skin of my palm. I just hate pain. But I relented this time. And of course, it kinda worked, but not really. The skin kinda puffed up, never turned black, but just kinda looked like a big blister. This is the “Alien” part… the skin came off with the old part of the wart, and nestled so sweetly and sinisterly amongst the tender muscle tissue of my upper palm, close to my middle finger, was a little, tiny, fresh looking wart baby. I could almost see it suckling. So creepy. And if I was a brave person, I would have purchased that wart freeze off stuff at the CVS and poured it into the open wound to finally eradicate the wart… But no, I must be part synthetic human because I simply covered it with a bandaid, allowing it to live, fully knowing that it will grow and thrive like its big mama wart had for the last 10 years.

But that’s not what this story is about.

This story is about being an American.

The Bison, or rather bison bison bison, whatever that means… Why 3 bisons?… Is it a trinity thing? The bison, she is back. There are a bunch of them living out west at Ted Turners ranch. He gets to eat as much bison bison bison as he can stomach and as well gets to feed a bunch of hungry Americans bison bison bison because he owns a bunch of restaurants that serve bison bison bison. This week, obama, our current president at the writing of this wart infused bison related piece of silliness, has designated the bison as our national beast. I like having a national beast. Makes me wonder if I have a bison living inside me and not really a wild boar. Since I really don’t know if it is a boar or not, I suppose I should take a few minutes to consider the specific characteristics of a bison… ( bison bison..)

It is big. Much bigger than I am so what am I thinking.

It is very furry… But then, so is the wild boar.

It is legendary. It has been hunted to the point of extinction… So unlike the wild boar which has been let loose to duplicate and prosper and then make more babies and prosper some more.

Although they both have been hunted … Mowed down in droves.

The bison eats a lot of grass.. The boar will eat anything.

I’m certain that the bison does not reproduce as vehemently as the boar, but I’ll need to check into that.
Bison bison bison
The election