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.

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