Chris Silva’s Mission Statement: “I am a passionate individual trying to live a life that gives priority to following my creative muse while contributing positively to the evolution of the collective. I see art as a way of thinking and acting in the world rather than merely a stylistic or material practice. I am concerned with how people relate to the self, to each other and to their environment. I am saddened by cruelty, xenophobia and greed. I aim to give artistic presence to my humanity and concern.
I am interested in the visually poetic, employ ambiguity in my work and strive to express the essence rather than the details. I see opportunities in accidents, enjoy unusual combinations of materials, the unpredictable outcomes of collaboration and the general adventure of the creative process.
I believe that collective consciousness is infinitely more important than individual ego. My priority as an artist is not to receive accolades and praise for my talents, but rather to inspire others to help to create a just and meaningful world. I am more interested in seeing what “we” can do than showing what “I” can do.”
Strong words from a strong artist. We could all benefit from learning a thing or two from this auspicious artist and the advancement of our species he represents with his work, words, and wonder.
What’s your favorite medium in which to work?
I really don’t have a favorite medium, but my favorite mode to work in is mixed-media. I’m a huge fan of combining different elements into one piece. That said, I do still have a fun time restricting my use of materials from time to time. Any thing to keep the art adventure interesting and feeling alive.
What do you like to do when you’re not creating art?
I try to take any opportunity I can to get out of the city and be surrounded by nature with my family. Having to work so much to keep the bills paid doesn’t allow for that very often these days, so I try to fit in some skateboarding and just hanging out enjoying food & drinks with friends whenever I can. Honestly there’s not even much time for that. The full time art hustle is definitely full time at this stage in the game. I’m still barely scraping by.
Collaboration is a big part of what you do. Why do you feel it’s important for artists to share with each other and collaborate on projects together?
I just see that great things happen through collaboration. It’s not always easy and is not always going to result in success necessarily, but when it does, it almost always exceeds the successes you can achieve on your own. Growing up as a graffiti artist who always hung out drawing and painting with my crew probably makes it come a little more naturally than it does for artists coming from more traditional art-making backgrounds. When I get too immersed in that hermetic, artist alone in the studio kind of lifestyle, I start to feel unhappy, so collaboration is a way to reinforce my connections to my friends and add a social element to my work life. It feels great to team up with talented friends and “play” together as a lifestyle. It keeps me energized and excited about work.
Legend Arthur Ashe’s eternally intelligent words: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Tell our readers about the Plant Seeds project. I’m sure our Milwaukee audience will be especially interested in hearing about it.
That was a project done through IN:SITE, a Milwaukee organization which helps facilitate the creation of temporary public art projects. I had done a project with them back in 2006 which was well received, so the group’s founder, Pegi Christiansen asked me to come back and do another one for them. The original location for that mural was in a very economically depressed area which was also lacking a lot in the vegetation department, so that quote, paired with the “Plant seeds.” statement seemed very appropriate for the area. One of Arthur Ashe’s nephews was in my first graffiti crew, so I really enjoyed that extra connection when I discovered the quote. That was a temporary project for that site. It has recently been adopted by Sweetwater Organics and will soon be installed on the side of their facility up there in Milwaukee. They are an awesome organization doing great and forward thinking things so it’s very cool that they were interested in helping to keep the mural alive.
I absolutely love the name of your spot, Believe Inn. How did you come up with that?
When we moved away to Puerto Rico several years back we set up our friend Matthew Hoffman to stay in our place while we were gone. He’s actually the one who first opened Believe Inn and is responsible for the name. After we had moved back and settled back in we decided we were going to resume using the basement as an art exhibition space. We loved the name too and felt like there was no reason to change it as long as Matthew was okay with us continuing to use it. He already had the cool sign, brought it back over for us and it’s been going really nicely ever since.
Tell us about your upcoming show in July at Believe Inn.
The next show opens up on July 6th. It’s a group show featuring the work of Chad Davis, Christopher Allman, Damion Silver, Emmett Kerrigan, Frog, Gabe Lanza, Geoffry Smalley, Hao Ni, Kane One, Luke Pelletier, Rob Funderburk & Uriel Correa. It should be a fun show. We get a nice range of people coming through to the openings, so they always are. People keep on saying things like, “There’s really good energy in here.” and that’s very encouraging. That’s exactly the kind of scene I hope to facilitate and surround myself with.
Are you originally from Chicago? If not, where are you from and how did you end up here? What’s your favorite thing about the city? And least favorite?
I was born in Puerto Rico and moved around the US with my mom a few times before coming to Chicago when I was 11. Before Chicago we lived in Tacoma, WA, Greenville, NC, and Rochester, NY. My mom met my step dad in Rochester and he had just gotten a job here, so we followed him. My favorite thing about Chicago is the overall diversity of experiences available here. At the same time, the segregation is one of the worst things about this city. Another crappy thing is the small-minded, pettiness that still holds this city back from evolving. Too many rats tearing each other down instead of building each other up.
Favorite city outside of Chicago?
I’ve always really loved my visits to The Bay Area in California. I have family out there and due to frequent exposure was heavily influenced by its skateboard & graffiti cultures. The landscape out there is really stimulating to me. NYC is always a blast to visit, but if I were picking a place to live I’d definitely pick SF. Closer to home, I have to say that I really enjoy Milwaukee. It feels refreshingly unpretentious. I’ve met some awesome people up there.
Who are your Top 10 Artists of all-time? You don’t have to put them in order, and they can perform in any medium and any genre.
Man, that would take too long to figure out…for now let’s say Fela, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Tortoise, Robert Hardgrave, Emmett Kerrigan, Juan Angel Chavez, Hundertwasser, Peter Taylor, Andrew Schansberg.
If we look at your iPod right now, what’s the last song played?
Funny…”High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In” by Tortoise.
What do you draw on (pun intended) for inspiration?
I feel like visual language has advanced so far that it’s incredibly easy to find inspiration these days. I can always just look on my Facebook or Flickr feed and see all kinds of cool stuff to get me hyped to continue this art adventure. Listening to music is key too.
I think you have probably my favorite mission statement ever. So tell me, Chris, what do you believe we are capable of as a human race?
Ha…that’s a big question. I guess we are capable of huge failures and huge successes. I’m pushing for us working together for a more generous distribution of wealth, health & compassion and I try to make my contributions count toward that goal…but like so many folks I am also caught in the pursuit of making sure my family’s day to day, month to month life essentials are in place, so it’s definitely not easy. I understand the impulse of cynicism, but I also see what a poor decision it is to favor that perspective. It’s making the decision to lose before the game is even over.
Now Is The Time opens on July 6th and runs through August 4th at Believe Inn located at 2043 N. Winchester