Mentor: Marcus Young
Liza Sylvestre holds a BA in Fine Art from the University of Minnesota. Her art practice started in Miami, FL where she lived for over six years before returning to her home city of Minneapolis. Sylvestreʼs work has been shown nationally in many cities including Miami, FL, Berkeley, CA and Portsmouth, NH. She recently completed a 25 piece commission for the 4 star James Hotel on Miami Beach and one of her paintings is now part of the permanent collection of the Rochester Museum of Fine Art in New Hampshire. Sylvestre is the co-founder of Creating Language Through Arts, an educational arts residency that focuses on using art as a means of communication when there are language barriers present due to hearing loss. In 2014 she was awarded both an Artist Initiative and Arts Learning grant from the MN State Arts Board.
Through my latest multidisciplinary work I explore the ways in which our senses alter our experience and perception of the world. I’m interested in how we use the intersection of our senses to communicate, and I approach this as an individual who is medically, although not culturally, deaf. My long, slow progression into deafness started when I was six years old and culminated in 2003, when I decided to undergo a cochlear implant surgery, which carved away some of my skull bone and muscle and placed a bionic computer-ear into the smallest crevices beyond my eardrum. I find that my definitions of “language” and “communication” are continuously shifting and are directly tied to my own ability to navigate these concepts with my disability.
As an artist who has been a painter and a drawer since 2010, I feel an obvious and welcome shift in my studio practice through the new work I am creating. My art practice has expanded significantly this year, enveloping video performance, interactive performance, and sound manipulation. Parallel to these new genres, I am steadily adding to my body of abstract mixed media. These paintings and drawings result from an intuitive decision-making process, a dialogue between myself and the art forming in front of me. Nothing is planned, and a final “outcome” is not determined as I work; this has motivated me to investigate my relationship to my self and my senses.
During this time of new media and shifting art focus, I search for ways in which these two bodies of work relate to each other. As I made progress in my studio this year, I developed a mental image of myself at the center of these two artistic endeavors. On one side of this balance, I concentrate on my internal life and its subtle manifestations. My hours spent drawing and painting have created room for self-awareness and self-examination, and have literally formed a time and space for me to be present and focused. My hearing loss has also allowed this inner space to be enforced and expand.
On the other side of this balance, I see myself turned outward. How do I, with my rather well formed internal life, interact externally with the world? In this outside existence, my hearing loss has made a mess of things. Awkward social situations, missed communication, and questions about my “accent” have made me want to retreat to the comfort of my internal world. Working with new media (specifically, with interactive components) enhances my experience of this internal/external balance, and it forces me to drag my inner life into sections of my outer life in ways not always comfortable for me.