The Art of Linda Sibio

Article excerpt

Linda Carmella Sibio's life may strike the casual observer as emotionally chaotic, but a closer inspection reveals a rich and vibrant tapestry, with an awe-inspiring resiliency.

An extremely driven and productive artist, Ms. Sibio uses multimedia exhibitions to make statements about her personal battle with schizophrenia, while drawing attention to the plight of the mentally ill. Visual art, encompassing paintings, drawings, and sculpture, as well as live performance pieces and writings, dramatize her life and the life of her late mother, who also had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

She attended Ohio University for a while but dropped out when she was 19 after her mother committed suicide. While in college, Ms. Sibio traveled to Italy and studied drawing, sculpture, and art history--in Italian. She also studied at the Fashion Institute [of Technology in New York] and is a couple of credits short of a degree in textile design.

Later, she returned to college and received a bachelor's of fine arts degree in painting with a minor in creative writing and silk-screening.

In a review of several of her watercolor and ink pieces. ArtNet magazine critic N.F. Karlins said, "In Sibio's drawings, sharp variations in scale move the eye from central figures, real and imagined, to thousands of tiny demons filling the interstices of the picture."

Ms. Sibio, who is 51, also directs bEZERK Productions, which is dedicated to mainstreaming the work of mentally ill artists.

She has received numerous awards, including the Brody Art Award, the Change Inc. Award, three Art Matters Awards, an award from Artists Beyond Disabilities, a LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) Interarts Award, and a Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Production award. Generous grants have helped fuel her work, including grants from the City of Los Angeles and the Lannan Foundation. But like many artists who work with mental illness, Ms. Sibio lives on disability and struggles to make a living from her work.

She has also started a group called The Cracked Eggs, which works together to do big interdisciplinary pieces such as painting, drawing, writing, and performances, and mixing them all together with music. The group just finished a piece called "The Prophet of Doom in the Banana Republic."

Ms. Sibio's art has been shown at numerous visual exhibits and live performances at locations across the country, including The Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis. Her paintings can currently be seen by appointment at the Andrew Edlin Gallery in New York.

Several of her paintings are part of the permanent collection at VSA arts in Washington. And patrons of a local bistro, The Joshua Tree Beatnik Cafe, can even try a sandwich named after her; "The Linda Sibio" vegan hot dog.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Artist's Reflections

The medications don't slow down my creativity. I work no matter what. If I can't draw, I write. If I can't write, I act. If I can't act, I draw. I see a therapist, but it doesn't help. I've been in therapy since 1989, but if it was working, why did I have a nervous breakdown in 1997? They have no answers when I ask them this.

I was put in an orphanage in West Virginia when I was about 8 years old. My mother was in a mental hospital because she was severely ill. I believe she had schizophrenia and maybe had some manic depression going on, too. Our dad died of asthma when we were really young. He was a coal miner.

I started doing art when I was about 11. At the orphanage, they gave me a little room down in the basement to do my drawing. I was really shy and with-drawn. I didn't really speak to anyone until I was 16 years old. I lived in the orphanage until I was 18.

As a senior in high school, I had a boyfriend, and his mother was an artist in Parkersburg, W.Va. She took an interest in me. She was part of a group that went to Provincetown, Mass. …