Eliseo Art Silva was born in Manila in 1972 and is a contemporary multimedia artist. He infuses his Filipino heritage into his work to help communities connect and foster compassionate interaction. With his art, he brings to life historically marginalized voices and amplifies the rich history of the Philippines.
Silva designed Talang Gabay, the Eastern Gateway to Historic Filipinotown (HIFI) and is widely credited for putting the Filipino district on the map with his iconic Gintong Kasaysayan mural (the first public art to honor Filipino Americans as the catalyst of the great 1965 Delano Grape Strike). Described by the Smithsonian as "bold and daring", it is honored as one of the "20 iconic murals of Los Angeles" by LA Weekly.
He migrated to the United States at 17 after graduating with full honors at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) and a Gold Medal for the most outstanding visual artist. In 1995, Silva obtained a BFA at Otis College of Art and Design with a Getty Museum Internship Arts Fellowship where he was mentored by National Medal of the Arts recipient, muralist Judy Baca in 1994-1995.
In 2003, he earned an MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art, under the auspices of Grace Hartigan and Domique Nahas, where he received the Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Residency Full Scholarship. Silva was also bestowed the Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts, the Award of Design Excellence from the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs, the Nehru Gold Medal in India, the Grandes Figuras Outstanding Alumni Award from Letran College’s Quadricentennial Celebration in Manila, the Roaring Tiger Award for Inspirational Leadership from Riverside City College and the Purchase Award from Liquitex Paints/Binney and Smith.
Silva has held numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Honolulu Academy of Art Museum, the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, the Painted Bride Art Center (Philadelphia), CUE Art Gallery (New York), Piramide Cultural Center (Mexico), Nehru Gallery (India), Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Plug-In Gallery (Canada) and the Skirball Cultural Center (Los Angeles).
He is the author of Filipinos of Greater Philadelphia (Arcadia Publishing, 2012); and has lived in the US East Coast (15 years), and the US West Coast (17 years) before Silva began building his Art Studio and Art School in the Philippines, dividing his time between Manila and Los Angeles since 2021.
His work with the Filipino Community is manifested in multiple legacy projects that has since become touchstones of history and cultural landmarks: 1) the 1997 and 1998 Philippines' Float Entries for the Annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA; 2) the HIFI Unidad Park & Community Garden; 3) the Western and Eastern Gateways of Historic Filipinotown; 4) the Larry Itliong memorial mural (Delano, CA); 5) the Carlos Bulosan memorial mural (Seattle, WA); 6) the ceiling & wall murals, and four paintings for the Philippine Nationality Room (University of Pittsburgh, PA); 7) The Philippine Masters Collection of Mabuhay Credit Union (Carson, CA); (8) The Shrine for Filipino Saints at St. Columban Filipino Catholic Church (Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles, CA); 9) the Uncle Bob Santos Place mural, Chinatown ID, Seattle, WA; and 10) the Filipino American History & Migration murals of Los Angeles, Seattle, Sacramento and Philadelphia. The unveiling celebration of the completed Gintong Kasaysayan Filipinotown mural on October 21, 1995, was also the first Larry Itliong Day celebration in the United States.
Silva is the founding president of FANHS-PA (Filipino American National Historical Society, Pennsylvania Chapter), the Events Coordinator of Gawad Kalinga Pennsylvania, a contract mural artist and teacher for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (2002-2014), co-founder of the Larry Itliong Day Committee (LIDC) and the Larry Itliong Day Philippines Campaign (LIDPC).
I have a longstanding interest in art, painting and community-based and participatory approaches to urban design and public art. 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.
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 object into the subject, 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). My work points to the invisible and erased, revealing the systems built and strategically positioned to determine the sources and receptors of power, oppression, control, objectification, dehumanization, erasure, and influence.
My studio art 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 public art and studio art has found common ground and a shared voice.
By bringing to life “The Filipino Story” at home and abroad, flipping the script of colonization (by elevating it as the main event and a protagonist of the global narrative), to such heights that its leading characters become household names, Filipino aesthetics and stories transforms cultural landscapes and plays a transformative role; my work shines a beacon of light on our side of the earth, unearthing the past to herald the future. I believe that art narrows the gap between our ancestors and the Creator, surfaces and reveals what is ours, what we value, what we are fighting for, and what we have to offer to secure an equal seat at the final table.
In my work as a mural artist, I always find pedagogical ways for youth and community members to bring in their cultural perspectives, knowledge, and imagination into the creative process.
For example, in designing a middle school mural, I used drama and theater arts with youth. The students decide how a scene is depicted in their school wall art by acting them out.
I have a lot to contribute including decades long experience creating murals alongside community members. I am naturally inclined to bring in a deep disciplinary sense of history, especially those kinds of history that are seldom represented. But I also would have so much to learn from other artists, students, teachers and colleagues in the process of making art.
I believe in the philosophy of building off from the cultural wealth in communities. I hope to gain the pedagogical knowledge to work in a genuinely democratic space and learn dialogical approaches to working with students and community members.
Most of all, to promote and professionalize the arts in our global community's diverse neighborhoods.
I have over 35 years' experience in large-scale public art with over a hundred art projects that has become cultural markers throughout the United States and beyond.
After three decades in the United States, I recently restored my original trajectory in the Philippines with an Art Studio and Art School in 2021 (while maintaining an active satellite art studio in Los Angeles, California, USA) to build upon my body of work at home and abroad and continue to decolonize and ignite meaningful change through Filipino aesthetics, Filipino stories, and Filipino art, by flipping the script of colonization and indoctrination.
I currently constantly navigate equally between two worlds: the Philippines and Filipino America.