Meet the Artist Sybil Archibald
Sybil Archibald participates in the SOMA Artists Tour on Sunday
Over the past eight years, the phrase “the first Sunday in June” has become synonymous with the visual arts in South Orange and Maplewood. This is the day reserved for the popular South Orange Maplewood Artists Studio Tour. Newly improved and sporting a new logo, the 2012 tour boasts an expanded website with interactive maps and artist information, and one additional and particularly welcome new feature: this years’ South Orange Maplewood Artists Studio Tour will be free for visitors. Visit the site to plan your tour.
In anticipation of the event, a number of artists were willing to answer questions about their work and what they will be showing on the studio tour this year.
How would you describe the artwork that you create?
My work explores the human form as a vessel for creative energy. By ripping open my subjects to explore the creative source, my art becomes the physical map of my own spiritual journey.
How would you describe your artwork on twitter (140 characters or less)?
Unconventional sculpture & painting grounded in sacred art from global spiritual traditions.
What are your websites?
When did you start making art?
My first conscious attempt to make art was a kindergartener. I built a series of “monster” masks and faces for display.
What is your preferred medium?
Clay is my preferred medium because I feel a deep connection to the earth and life when I use it.
Clay is not just dirt, it is teems with life and microorganisms. There is something in clay that wants to grow and transform and which responds to that same impulse within the artist. Clay is a partner in the creative act, not a submissive servant. I also enjoy making paint and pigments from natural sources such as tree sap and semi precious stones, acrylic paint and etching.
What compels you to create?
There is an intimacy and silence I find in working that anchors the rest of my life. It gives me a profound sense of connection to the generative life force that permeates everything, lending a deeper meaning a satisfaction to every part of my life.
Are you inspired by other forms of art such as music, literature, poetry? How do they relate your work?
I am deeply inspired by poetry, especially sacred poets like Rumi, Dorothy Walters, Kabir, Dogen, Thomas Merton, Rilke and the like. Their articulation of mystery helps to open me to the creative flow.
What is the most important idea of our time?
That an individual can grow and thrive spirituality outside of organized religion. That a person can draw from the wisdom of many established traditions for nourishment not just the particular narrow view that we are born into.
What is the most surprising experience you’ve ever had?
I have been quite ill for many, many years and experienced some terrifyingly close calls. Yet I am continually surprised at how each experiences transforms and softens me; how in the end I become grateful because the degree of transformation outweighs the intensity of pain and fear.
Is there something that inspires your work and how is it represented in the art you create?
I am inspired by driving pulse of life that exists everywhere, the fundamentally creative nature of the universe. From the weed that pushes up through the crack in the sidewalk to the warm sunlight on my face in dead winter, everywhere I look I perceive that force. It fascinates and invites me. Every piece I have ever made is nothing more than a journey toward that force, an intimate attempt to find its face.
Do you have a favorite artist? Who and how has that artist inspired your own work?
I am most inspired by Frida Kahlo, Mark Rothko and Picasso. There are certain works of art that cause you to feel more your self, that connect you on a very deep level to something that is more than you and yet is you. These works enlarge us, they heal; Frida through pain, Rothko through spirit, & Picasso through joy. Following their example, that’s what I seek to do in my own work, heal.
If you knew you would never sell another work of art, would you continue to make art?
Yes, because art is about the process of creating and connecting to that creative force that unites us all. The product, hopefully, is beautiful but it is the secondary point. The point is to create.
What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
The Grand Canyon
What sort of artwork do you plan on exhibiting in this year’s tour?
Sculpture, paintings and etchings. The sculptures are from my Earthen Vessel Series. They explore the relationship between physical suffering and creative energy. My subjects are real people whose lives profoundly influence me. People like Hildegard of Bingen, a charismatic 12th century abbess whose physical pain shifted as she found her voice, and Beethoven, a composer who confronted hearing loss, are mapmakers for creativity in the face of great difficulty.
Sybil’s art career has two distinct phases. She began her artistic path with a deep interest in sacred art from the medieval period. During this time, her dynamic work was exhibited nationally and internationally. She has brought her unique vision and technical expertise to workshops, lectures and demonstration at museums, libraries and schools throughout the NY area, including the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the NY Public Library and the Museum of African Art, Soho.
In 1997, however, she was struck down with the rare disease scleroderma. She spent the next 12 years mostly confined to bed. This time became a spiritual retreat, a journey inward to find her true creative voice. In 2010 she emerged from bed and began working on her expressive Earthen Vessel series, leaving medieval art techniques behind.
Sybil's work will be on display at the Baird Center on Sunday and at the Pierro Gallery through June.