Lisa Sylvester is an artist who was born in Baltimore, MD and is based in Philadelphia, PA. She holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MFA from Boston University.
Her work includes works on paper and painting, and is focused on text. Sylvester has shown nationally at venues which include Morgan Lehman Gallery (NY), Geoffrey Young Gallery (MA), 33 Orchard (NY), LGTripp Gallery (PA), Bridgette Mayer Gallery (PA), and Benjamin Mangel Gallery (PA). She is represented in numerous private collections.
A past Leeway Foundation grant recipient, Sylvester also teaches at Moore College of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
In Sylvester's work, text is often the primary trigger that sets into motion the process of constructing an image.
She mines literary sources for sections of text that have strong links to experiences and ideas from her own life, and that also speak to a more universal human condition. These literary sources have included works by Octave Mirbeau, Antonin Artaud, Wilhelm Stekel, Henri Michaux, and most recently, Albert Camus, Alfred de Musset, and Pierre Reverdy.
The text and its meanings are critical to each work. The words are steeped in all the associations that spring from their lives in the verbal world, but they also function as pure visual image. Cerebral underpinnings submerge and resurface as Sylvester takes on the physical and visual process of cajoling a work into existence. As formal concerns vie for attention with intellectual ones, words and phrases are deconstructed and reconstituted in ways that shift original intentions and reveal new layers of meaning.
Several recent works include text from Camus’s novel The Plague and look at ideas of love, hope, and persistence within the framework of human suffering. The text is sourced from a scene in which the novel’s two main characters go for an evening swim in the town’s harbor; for a moment, they escape the daily horrors of battling the plague to celebrate their personal bond. Love becomes a form of liberation, if only momentary, from isolation and suffering. In addition to the text, map-based imagery of the physical setting of the Camus passage (the Port of Oran, Algeria) is present in some of these works.
More generally, Sylvester's work delves into obsession, the concept of the ordeal, perfectionism, and control. Devices used to build the formal structures of these works, such as the grid, repeating patterns, and regular mathematical intervals, arise out of her desire to bring order and a physical logic to chaos, as well as to pin down into a concrete reality the intangible nature of metaphor and fiction.