Eliseo Art Silva
Eliseo Art Silva was born in Manila in 1972 and is a contemporary multimedia artist.
Silva designed "Talang Gabay - Our Guiding Star", the Welcome Arch Gateway to Historic Filipinotown and is widely credited for putting the City of LA's Filipinotown on the map with his iconic “Gintong Kasaysayan” mural (the first artwork to recognize Larry Itliong and the Filipino American farmworkers' pivotal role in the great 1965 Delano Grape Strike). Described by the Smithsonian as "bold and daring", it’s honored as the "most significant Filipino mural in the country" by the LA Times, and as one of the "20 iconic murals of Los Angeles" by the LA Weekly.
He began drawing at 4 years old and started painting at 6. As early as his grade school years at San Beda College Alabang, Silva became known as *ELESI, in recognition of his renown as an "art star," and as the school's most in-demand chalkboard artist. He was consistently commissioned by his teachers to draw massive and colorful visual aids across multiple chalkboards, one classroom after the other. His first painted wall art was a 5ft x 10ft mural (Sesame Street and its Filipino counterpart- Batibot- in one scene), completed when the young prodigy was only 10 years old.
Silva started taking formal painting lessons at the age of 11 under a local Filipino artist Roger San Miguel, while a student at Letran College in Manila (where he received his first mural commission years later at 15 years old). He majored in the Visual Arts at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) in Los Banos, Laguna, where his work represented the Philippines and won multiple art competitions on an international level in Japan, Canada, and India. He immigrated to the United States at 17 years old, and obtained his BFA at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles in 1995.
In 2003, he earned an MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Hoffberger School of Painting in Baltimore, Maryland. He won the Nehru Gold Medal in India, a Gold Medal (most outstanding Visual Artist) from the PHSA, the Grandes Figuras Award from Letran College, and the Roaring Tiger Award for inspirational leadership from Riverside City College. He received the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant, Independence Foundation Artist's Travel Grant, the Beautification Award from the Riverside Chamber of Commerce for his Freeway Underpass Mural in Riverside, CA, the Award of Design Excellence from the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs and the Purchase Award from Binney and Smith.
Silva has held numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. His works have been featured by 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), the Conner Contemporary, the Nehru Gallery (India), the Piramide Cultural Center (Mexico), the Cultural Center of the Philippines (Philippines), Korean Cultural Center (Los Angeles), the Sweeney Art Gallery (Riverside, CA), McNish Art Gallery (Oxnard), CUE Art Gallery (New York), Skyline College Art Gallery (San Bruno, CA), the Plug-In Gallery (Canada) and the Skirball Cultural Center (Los Angeles).
*Filipino word for airplane propeller, and short for Eliseo.
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 art is an experience of visualizing marginalized voices coming to life with work that is visually engaging yet confrontational, imbued with the artistic goal of reconciling the history of my Filipino heritage and aesthetics with the history, heritage, and aesthetics of Western painting, challenging and examining the construction of whiteness, and to question the hierarchy of the western cannon in painting altogether, by decentralizing it all through my works of art.
By extoling and 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 Filipino aesthetics and stories transforms cultural landscapes and plays a world role; my work shines a bright beacon of light on our side of earth, building bridges from our ancestors to the Divine and the Creator; and, 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 am skilled at portraits, composition, designing site-specific iconic public art, surfacing memories of the land, and telling stories visually through historical murals and large-scale paintings. I have over 30 years’ experience in large-scale street art and public art with over 100 art projects that has become landmarks and destinations throughout the United States and beyond.
My strong rootedness in the Philippines equipped me with the effective tools necessary to surface the Filipino Story in the United States with authenticity and gravitas; evocative of bearing the imprimatur of a nation through multiple Filipino legacy projects that made an impact, transforming sites into a place, uniquely innovative cultural landscapes as well as engaging sites of public memory.
After three decades in the United States, I recently restored my original trajectory in the Philippines with a new satellite Art Studio (while maintaining an active art studio in Los Angeles, California) to build upon my body of work overseas and continue to aspire to make a difference and ignite meaningful change through Filipino aesthetics, stories, and art, at home and abroad.
I currently constantly navigate equally between two worlds: the Philippines and Filipino America.