February 28, 2018

In the Studio with Chicago Artist Lucy Slivinski

When it comes to reclaimed materials and found objects, sculptor and installation artist Lucy Slivinski is well versed. Long before the “green movement” and sustainability trend of the aughts, Slivinski was scouring scrapyards and designing with salvaged materials on the outskirts of Chicago.

With a BFA and MFA in Fiber, solo exhibitions in Miami, New York City, and Chicago, and public commissions in Grant Park, Prudential Plaza, Logan Square Skatepark and beyond, Slivinski’s artist journey has been something of an evolution.

Today, in her Chicago-based studio (a repurposed Chicago firehouse), she walks me through her creative process, newfound foray into lighting and the 18-foot-high birds nest she’s creating from reclaimed bicycles.

Tell me about the philosophy behind your designs.

I’ve been working with reclaimed materials and found objects for almost 30 years. I was attracted to things that are patinaed, things that have a different kind of quality because they were used. My grandparents were from the depression era, they never threw anything away. In fact, I used to crochet with their saved bread bags. Today, I don’t even think in terms of making something with new materials - salvaged materials are my default, they’re built into my DNA.

You have an MFA/BFA in Fiber -- for those unfamiliar, what is that exactly?

Fiber is essentially weaving, printing textiles. I was in that time period right before fiber became a material method. When I was doing it, no one even wanted to show it. Making things out of mud, tar … it was a great time for me to explore, experiment. I carried a lot of that experimentation into my public commissions and my projects in France and Cuba, where I lived for quite some time. My experience and learning has sort of snowballed over the years, through trial and error, it’s a never-ending journey.

When using reclaimed materials, do you start with the found object? Or do you have an idea first, and find the materials second?

Many times it’s me finding the piece in a scrapyard. And even that’s changed over the years, I can’t get into many scrapyards, they don’t let people in to just roam around. Fortunately, there’s a stainless steel yard near my studio that I’ve been going to for years. I found these beautiful metal links that are consistently thrown away from another company’s manufacturing process. With these links, there are endless options. Another frequent scrapyard find: Bicycles. I’m actually working on a piece now for the Uptown neighborhood; an 18-foot-high bicycle and stainless steel nest with a giant bird on top -- it’ll be at the intersection of Montrose, Sheridan and Broadway in the coming months.

How did you make the leap into the world of lighting?

I was creating all of this found object artwork, sculptures, and I noticed that putting lights into them really accentuated all of the lines, gave them a new life, a new perspective. My pieces stand alone as works of art with the lights off, and take on an entirely new life when lit, casting shadows and patterns in interesting and unique ways. Obviously, I have to treat my works a little differently for the home; I coat each piece to protect it, but it still ages with time.

Lucy Slivinski lighting collection

Hyacinth Pendant
by Lucy Slivinski
$3,000 - $3,200
Wavelength Pendant
by Lucy Slivinski
$3,900 - $4,200
Maize Pendant
by Lucy Slivinski
$4,000 - $4,500
Crystal Solar Power Pendant
by Lucy Slivinski
$6,000 - $7,800
Flora Pendant
by Lucy Slivinski
$4,200 - $4,800
Sumac Pendant
by Lucy Slivinski
$5,000 - $5,400
Solar Power Pendant
by Lucy Slivinski
$5,000 - $6,200
Moon Flower Pendant
by Lucy Slivinski
$6,000 - $6,500