Director of the Arts:
An untamed feral nature lives just beneath the surface of the human animal.
People collect animals. We collect them in zoos, in our homes, in our stories, in our popular culture. We transform them into digestible versions of what they truly are. We try to humanize them. We observe animals in endless documentaries. We enslaved them to perform in the Circus. We infuse them with human traits through our movies, animations and literature. We give them language skills, put clothing on them. We use them as symbols possessing mystical powers. We associate them with religious piety. We interact with them in our myths and fairy tales. We attempt to domesticate them.
Yet, ultimately, the animal is un-tame-able. This un-tame-ability is reflective of the un-tame-ability of the planet itself. This un-tame-ability is nature. And ultimately, we are made of that same stuff of nature. The beast can speak truth to power. Animals mirror truth back onto the self.
Most recently, while driving from my house to my studio, I encountered a raccoon in the middle of the day. It was not rabid. The raccoon walked up to the car, then stood up, looked at me as if wanting to discuss something. I said “hello, maybe you should get out of the road” then drove away. That encounter reminded me that listening to that feral, wild, un-tame-able creature was a very important thing to do and I was not doing it. I just stayed in my car and was somewhat deaf to its voice. It was not a comfortable place to be. This is when the human size animal paintings began.
My series “The Wild Boar”, from 2015 manifested itself in a series of books as well as a large body of paintings. This work is a semi-autobiographical story about the feral nature of the self. It explores how attempting to tame this feral nature is an ongoing struggle. For me it is, as well, a losing battle.
My work used the wild boar as a subject for many reasons. These reasons tend to lie in the realm of contradiction – both psychological and physical. One example of contradiction – humans tamed this beast for its’ food supply in the form of the domesticated pig. Of course, pigs escaped confinement because they could – that is what nature does. Growing numbers of feral pigs destroy crops in their search for food. Their numbers are so large that they are hunted with machine guns shot from helicopters to control their numbers. This is one isolated example of many imbalances created on this planet in the name of civilization.
By spending time with these contradictions and deconstructing attempts at taming the wild, my journey is to understand and accept wildness. By not fearing wildness, but rather accommodating it, I believe we can create more balance in ourselves and our planet. I hope to be able to understand this better. My work strives to do just this.
val sivilli 2019-2020
Val Sivilli is an artist and renaissance woman. She is a painter, printmaker, writer, musician and activist who serves as a liaison between artists and their community.
Originally, from Brooklyn, Long Island and then Brooklyn again, Val now lives in Hunterdon County, NJ. She did her graduate work at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers, her undergrad at SUNY Purchase and Alfred University. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Fine Art at both Bucks and Raritan Valley Community Colleges. Civilian Art has been her identity as a T-shirt designer since 1996. In 2016, Val worked to create The Hunterdon Art Tour, a self-guided tour of artist studios throughout Hunterdon County, NJ. Quite often, she can be found playing her accordion somewhere.
Her work reveals the untamed feral nature living just beneath the surface of the human animal. She uses narrative elements and the power of color and composition to express deep truths about humanity’s relationship to the planet, other living beings and ultimately, to each other.
RESIDENCIES & MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS: