Scott Silvey literally understands the power of flowers. Scott’s nature-inspired art pieces resonates from living on an Indiana farm and caring for a garden when he was a child. Various plants and flowers have always carried a bit of a magical spirit to him. In his winning art piece, Aphrodisiac Bath, he illustrates a vibrant botanical scene that celebrates not only the beauty, but medicinal properties of flowers and herbs. The backdrop of where the plants sit are scrolling scripts, detailing the ingredients for a stimulating bath. Many of Scott’s work celebrate the healing power that nature possesses. “I create paintings and other art that investigates the manifold ways in which plants can positively effect human life. In a world that is becoming increasingly artificial, my work is a reminder of the healing potential that lies in the roots, stems and leaves growing all around us.” Scott has also been inspired through living, studying, and working abroad in Japan, South Korea, England, and now back to the United States. Meet Scott Silvey, our latest Art Contest Winner, and our ultimate Flower Power King.
How did you come up with the concept of Aphrodisiac Bath?
All of the pieces in my Invocations series are in effect portraits of various herbal remedies. The plants in each painting could be combined in reality to make traditional medicine to treat various afflictions. While working on this series my best friend gave me the news that he would be getting married. I wanted to do a painting as a wedding gift for my friend Sam and his wife Jackie, but creating an image of medicine just didn’t seem appropriate. So when I ran across this recipe for a stimulating bath I got really excited. What could possibly be a better image for newlyweds than one which increases their desire for each other?
Tell us about the moment when you realized “I want to be an artist.”
In undergraduate school I studied psychology. During my final year of undergrad at Earlham College I decided to take a photography class just to fill a requirement. It was that decision that changed my life’s direction. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I began by just shooting what was around me but my image making soon turned to creating almost allegorical sets to pose myself and others in. I actually didn’t get such a good grade in the class though because my interests often diverged from the assignments.
What different techniques do you use when creating your art?
With the painting I use primarily water-based paints and a carbon transfer process that I’ve developed through the years. Much of the primary imagery comes from the internet and then I just assemble and compose the individual pieces into finished work. When I make sculptures or installation the techniques depend on what is required for the concept. I weld, do woodworking, casting, forging, sewing or whatever is needed for the piece. In the next few years I hope to expand my technical repertoire. I want to do some performance and film work in addition to what I currently do.
You once lived in Japan. What exactly led you there?
When I was a child my father always collected National Geographic magazine. The images of beautifully attired geishas, exotic temples, and snow monkeys found from time to time in its pages always fascinated me. Then, when I was in university I spent a lot of time looking at ukio-e and other Japanese image making and design. I liked all of the seeming dissonance in the work. The density of imagery in the kimono design versus the remaining abundant negative space in a print. Or the intense violence of a battle scene juxtaposed with someone arranging flowers in a quiet room in the corner of the painting. I never really thought I’d have an opportunity to live in Japan but when the opportunity to move to Tokyo arose, I jumped at it.
Can you describe how living in Japan influenced your art work?
I think the biggest influence Japan had on me while living there was on my composition sense. In the last place that I lived before moving back to the States, my local train station had a small display area for ikebana (flower arrangements). Every day as I walked to or from the train I was treated with a constantly shifting array of mini sculptures. That moment of stillness among the bustle of commuters always made me pause and take note.
Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
Yes, I have five notebooks full of ideas for installation and large-scale painting projects I’m eager to put into the world. As you might imagine, there were certain spatial constraints in Japan that limited the kind of work I could do. Now that I’m back in the U.S. I really want to work big again. My first solo exhibition in America will involve three large installations, 365 live plants, about 4 tons of raw soil sculpted into the form of an Ohio River Valley culture ceremonial mound and some glowing neon among other things.
Which artist(s) do you look up to?
There are many artists that I admire. As Newton said, we stand on the shoulders of giants and to not be aware of your predecessors or acknowledge their contributions to your work/ field is just ignorant and delusional. Generally I love the work of outsiders, folk artists, the mentally ill and children. The themes, material usage and compositional sense of those who haven’t been ‘educated’ is just fantastic. Probably Henry Darger is one of the names many people may recognize in that category. In addition I love the drawings of Hans Bellmer, work by Morris Louis, Edward Hopper, Albert Bierstadt, Jessica Stockholder, Marc Quinn, Petah Coyne, Tom Sachs, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Shana Robbins and my wife Mio Silvey among many others.
What advice would you offer yourself 5 years ago?
Try to get more sleep because raising a child and making art is going to make you very tired.
What quote keeps you motivated?
Last year, at the announcement of his retirement from an illustrious career in animation, Hayao Miyazaki was quoted as saying, “Never stop trying to achieve more universal and profound expressions of humanity.” I think those words best express my drive as an artist. There are as many ways to live a human life as there are, have been or will be humans in existence. There is beauty in the fact however that on the most fundamental level we are all the same. The deepest personal expressions can also be the most universal. The more that I can come to understand who I am, the closer I can get to comprehending what it means to be human. My work is an attempt to find those factors which unite us all.
Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?
I usually try to pick up a new book, watch a documentary or just go for a walk alone.
Do you have any secret vices?
It’s always easier to not work than work. For me the most interesting part of the art-making process is coming up with the ideas and doing the research. I don’t have any particular vices that prevent me from doing work, I just have to stay focused on making the actual artifact and not just swim in the ideas.
What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our Art Contests?
Do your work, follow the leads that life gives you and always try to do your best. Push yourself to find a different angle on what you know and you may find an entrance into a whole new thematic world. Then, gather up your friends, fill out the application form and send it in. A seat at the table is waiting for you!
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