"Art is the progenitor of civilizations. Artists elevate to provide a 'seat at the table' for all."
Eliseo Art Silva is the artist behind the “Gintong Kasaysayan” Filipinotown mural of Los Angeles, described by the Smithsonian as "bold and daring", it is the first artwork to honor Larry Itliong and the Filipino American farm worker's pivotal role as the catalyst of the great 1965 Delano Grape Strike. It is also honored as one of the "10 Monumental Murals of Los Angeles," the "most significant Filipino mural in the country" by the LA Times, and as one of the "20 iconic murals of Los Angeles" by LA Weekly. It is also recognized as the "most famous Filipino American artwork". (Ling, Austin, 2010)
Created by Silva when he was 22 years old, its presence in the district inspired the designation of the neighborhood as Historic Filipinotown. Furthermore, its enduring impact as the earliest cultural landscape to depict the most significant Filipino American event (1965 Grape Strike), help forge the annual celebration of Larry Itliong Day (October 25) in 2010 in the City of Carson, CA; and the official, state-wide, annual celebration of Larry Itliong Day in California (launched in 2015).
According to a City of Los Angeles Public Works Commissioner:"Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana is the largest mural dedicated to Filipino heritage in the United States; and its presence partly inspired city officials to designate the community surrounding the mural as Historic Filipinotown in 2002" (Asian Journal, November 28,2016).
Though the mural was formally dedicated on June 24, 1995, it was completed and unveiled with a second celebration (only after eight months of work ever since actual painting commenced) on October 24,1995, the earliest Larry Itliong Day celebration in the country.
Silva was born in Manila in 1972- the same year Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. A martial law baby, Silva completed his first mural on February 28, 1986 at the age of 14, just a few days after becoming part of the EDSA People Power Revolution. He received his first commissioned public art a year later from Colegio De San Juan De Letran Alumni Association, while still a sophomore at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA). In 1989, Silva emigrated to the United States at the age of 17, after graduating from the PHSA with full honors.
Silva emigrated to the United States the same year that the "Laguna Copperplate Inscription" (900 AD) was discovered and advanced the historical record of the Philippines six centuries prior to Spanish conquest in 1565, validating the existence of multiple Indianized Kingdoms of the Philippines, and demonstrated how integrated Luzon, Mindanao, Java (Indonesia), and India was as early as 10th Century Philippines. This provided a solid foundation for artists such as Silva to surface the memories of the land, to elevate the very core of the Filipino story as the protagonist and the main event of their work.
He was an undergraduate student at Otis College of Art and Design, when the 1992 LA Riots erupted; and was a junior at Otis when he began the Gintong Kasaysayan Filipinotown mural two years later. The Martial Law era in the Philippines, the 1986 Philippine Revolution and the 1992 LA Riots shaped Silva’s work; and his art directly addresses the visual dehumanization of his culture by reconciling the history of his lineage with the history of painting.
His work has been featured at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Conner Contemporary in Washington, D.C., the Cue Art Foundation Gallery in New York, the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Plug-In Gallery in Canada, the Painted Bride Art Art Center in Philadelphia, Piramide Cultural Center in Mexico, Nehru Gallery in India, Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Other nationally and internationally advertised public art competitions which he won the commission for includes: the Millennium War Memorial for US Veterans of all the Wars of the 21st Century in Lompoc, CA; the Jewish American Mural for the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles; the 7,000 sq. foot Gateway Underpass Mural of Riverside, CA and Colton, CA; the Choose Respect Mural in Sitka, Alaska; the Normandie Village Mural in LA`s Little Armenia, and the Carlos Bulosan Memorial in Seattle, WA.
Silva`s contributions to the art world have not gone unnoticed. He has been the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Getty Arts Institute, the Independence Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation, the National Arts Association, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and was a finalist for the Paul and Daisy Soros Foundation for New Americans. The National Centennial Commission of the Philippines commissioned him to create interactive public art for the Philippine Centennial celebrations as part of the first International Arts Festival in Boracay Island, and his works was included in the Philippine Centennial Time Capsule.
Eliseo's other public art designs beyond painted walls, ultimately became landmark destinations and cultural treasures of Los Angeles. These include the Western Gateway Marker for Historic Filipinotown and the Filipino features of Unidad Park which includes the entrance walkway shaped like a yo-yo, the centerpiece gathering place (after the Cordillera Dap-ay) and the community garden honoring the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras. Silva also co-designed two floats entered by the Philippines at the 1997 and 1998 Rose Parade in Pasadena to celebrate the Philippine Centennial. These two Rose Parade floats co-designed by Silva both won the coveted "International Trophy."
He has recently completed cultural heritage destinations from both coasts in the United States: four paintings, wall and ceiling murals for the "Philippine Nationality Room," University of Pittsburgh, PA; and the Mabuhay Credit Union's "Philippine Masters Collection" series of monumental oil on canvas paintings in Carson, CA. Both sites are the very first in the United States to honor 19th Century Filipino masters in the Fine Arts.
Silva has been profiled by the Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Juxtapoz Magazine, Art in America, Smithsonian Magazine, Manila Bulletin, Sacramento Bee, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the Seattle Times.
He has taught at California State Dominguez Hills, Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia, Big Picture and Mural ArtCorps of the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia, the School District of Philadelphia in partnership with the Mural Arts Program, the Institute for the Arts in Education in Philadelphia, the California Polytechnic State University Pomona and the California State University in Sacramento, CA.
He received his BFA at Otis College of Art and Design and obtained an MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). He also attended Riverside City College where he was awarded the ASRCC Roaring Tiger Award for Inspirational Leadership as well as attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Artist Residency in Maine as a Skowhegan and MICA Fellow. Prior to immigrating to the United States in 1989, he attended San Beda College in Alabang and Colegio De San Juan De Letran. He was selected as a full-time scholar by the Philippine government, after a nation-wide search to attend the prestigious Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA).
He graduated from PHSA with a MARIA Scholarship (full-scholarship with stipend to any arts school in the Philippines), the model student of the year award and the gold medal for most outstanding student in the visual arts. He is the founder of the Larry Itliong Day Committee (LIDC) in Los Angeles and the Pennsylvania chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS-PA) and served as its first president. Silva was awarded the 2014 Alumni Achievement Award and is among 400 most outstanding alumni bestowed the Grandes Figuras Award from Colegio De San Juan De Letran in Intramuros, Manila, Philippines in celebration of the school's 400th Anniversary in 2020.
In 2018, Unidad Park and the Gintong Kasaysayan Filipinotown mural was both named "Cultural Treasures" by Promise Zone Arts and administered by the Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles who worked with residents to identify cultural assets of their neighborhoods that were deemed significant.
Ling, Huping and Austin, Alan (2010). Asian American Heritage and History: An Encyclopedia, 1:297.
Blending-in is not American.
What is American is elevating your own story and identity so that it can advance America by creating something unique to both your own country of origin and your new home.
That's what showing 'American-ness' is all about.
Its about valuing, motivating and elevating our stories so everyone can earn that lofty 'seat at the table'.
I am a weaver of history and heritage. My artistic goal is to reconcile the history of my lineage with the history of painting. Through the process of palimpsest and automatic painting, cultural energy is harvested when images and voices originating from the margins, the discarded and invisible define the originator of the gaze, flipping the subject into the object, the amphitheater into the stage and the spectacle into a surveillance. This concept was culled from the panopticon designed by Jeremy Bentham and expounded on by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish (1975).
I am drawn towards the inherent power of folk art and folk tales and fascinated in converging its myriad of possibilities in imagery and storytelling through a process that involves serendipity, layering and invention. It is in folk art and folk tales that we discover the memories of the land, a people`s voice in any culture, a gateway to release and liberate our umbilical cord connecting us to our origins and silenced voices. The contemporary voice I intend to manifest from the art of the people is in a form that is in constant state of flux; a vehicle that is constantly shifting, animated and out of control.
I intend to recreate the kind of intensity that can only be found in nature and our immediate surroundings into works of art. I want that transformative experience enhanced by experimenting with images, materials and techniques to achieve multiple surfaces and arrive at "new" discoveries and artworks that can open up and herald the emergence of new worlds and innovations.
I believe art is the best way to document communities; providing an effective means for communities to connect, thrive and flourish in urban environments: inviting all to make the first step towards compassionate interaction.
I also believe in the positive impact of large scale wall art because I am witness to the transformation of people involved in the creative process. Through my public art installations I want to experience new ways of expression, while incorporating new materials and techniques. I intend to foster my artistic vision while deepening my connection with the community.
I have over thirty years experience in creating murals and more than a hundred award-winning public art projects, exhibits and installations in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, Seattle, Lompoc, Sacramento, Oxnard, Pomona, Carson, Riverside, Hershey, Wisconsin, Maine, Alaska, Vallejo, Pittsburgh, Hawaii, Canada, India, Mexico and the Republic of the Philippines.
My collaboration with neighborhoods in creating public art, as well as my personal work in the studio, is an introspection of decoding (a): encrypted forms of personal and social forms of expression and how suppressed cultures re-identify themselves through the matrix of oppression; as well as, (b): how various cultures promote their patrimonial resources from ancestral cultural sites, to natural wonders, to contemporary public markets, down to toys. By rendering memory and blood relations in a process that manifests knowledge in a private voice vs. projecting information in a public stage, my lineage has found its translation from murals to painting.
My works are a reflection on heritage and history and the reverberations of the past in contemporary life; unearthing and innovating from the past to herald the future.