Sybil Archibald holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in medieval spirituality from New York University and trained extensively in traditional sacred arts including Russian Icon painting at the School of Sacred Arts in Manhattan. Her artistic practice builds on the foundational knowledge, learned from sacred art traditions, that creation is a spiritual act. Archibald’s artwork is a record of the deep spiritual changes caused by confronting long-term illness. She believes that change for the good is possible in every life. This view informs her life and work. Archibald’s art has been shown nationally and internationally in museums, galleries and universities including the Montclair Art Museum, Monmouth University, and Rutgers University. She currently works out of her light-filled studio, surrounded by her family, two dogs and 12 koi, in South Orange, New Jersey, just outside of New York City.
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Sybil Archibald’s earliest memories are of delving deeply into the earth for clay on her family’s 20 acre orange farm in Ojai, California. She remembers days covered from head to toe in thick, chunky mud, and the cold hosing off that followed. Carrying her love of clay and mess into the classroom while in kindergarten, she began sculpting wild and whimsical heads of people and monsters and has never looked back. Between Archibald and the clay there was a bond. She intuitively understood that clay was teaming with life, filled with microbes and decomposing plant matter. She experienced clay as an active participant in the creative process. From this discovery she understood the profound connection between the physical world and the inner creative world. “I felt a spiritual connection with the clay, as I shaped and transformed it I was transforming myself inside,” Archibald says. “This was when I began to understand that art is a spiritual path and that we are transformed by diving deeply into the creative process.”
When Archibald was ten, her family moved to the city of Los Angeles. The barred windows, noise, and concrete replacing the clay made it a difficult transition from the freedom of her family’s orange farm. She turned to painting and began to explore her inner world. These first paintings held the kernels of her current exploration of ‘the inner life of the artist’. “I felt cut off from my spiritual center, my clay. It was as if I was in a desert and was dying of thirst until I discovered painting, the key to unlock my inner world and access spirituality again.”
At the age of 14, she worked on a temporary billboard mural through Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in Venice, California. The other artists were adults and this experience impressed upon her the importance of being part of a larger artistic community. It exposed her to artists of different visions and styles. She quickly understood there was no other path for her to follow. “There was so much strength and vision in our planning sessions. As a shy 14 year old I was awed, but also inspired and enriched. From that point on, I just knew there was no other road for me but art.”
When it came time to go to college, she wanted to go to art school, but her family wanted her to get a more practical degree. So Archibald promptly went to New York University (NYU), majored in the highly employable field of medieval mysticism! While at NYU, she discovered the School of Sacred Arts (SOSA), an amazing and quirky school run out of the basement of a church just off Washington Square Park. “They taught such a wide range of sacred traditions, from Russian Icon writing and Tibetan butter sculpture to Japanese haiku and Byzantine embroidery. There were talks by famous religious leaders, gurus, artists, and poets. It was a dynamic and exhilarating place to be. I was in heaven!,” remembers Archibald. She studied as many topics as she could at SOSA. While painting Russian icons with Vladislav Andrejev, she learned the deeply symbolic language of sacred arts. Studying manuscript illumination with Karen Gorst, she felt the profound connections between spirit and the earthy sources of artist materials. Her experience with these sacred arts confirmed what she had learned as a child playing in clay, that creation is a spiritual act with transformational powers.
Shortly after graduating college, Archibald was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called scleroderma and was given five years to live. She became desperately ill and had trouble walking, couldn’t open a door and couldn’t sleep from pain. For many years it was difficult for her to pursue her art. It was a dark and difficult period, but eventually, she remembered the transformational power of making art and returned to working. Her alchemist series, which explored the relationship between the physical material of making art and the artist’s internal world, came out of this period. Dipping back into that creative well was reviving. She threw herself into her work and began to heal. More than 25 years later she is still hard at work.
Archibald is mainly self-taught, but was lucky enough to do a class in etching with Krishna Reddy at NYU and with Vjay Kumar at The Center for Visual Arts in New Jersey. She also did a semester at Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy and studied with Camille Rendal at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica, California. Her work has been shown nationally and international in museums, galleries and universities including the Montclair Art Museum, Monmouth University, and Rutgers University. Archibald currently works out of her light-filled studio, surrounded by two dogs and 12 koi fish, in South Orange, New Jersey, just outside of New York City.
Although Archibald continues to face health challenges, her commitment to working is unwavering. She created her Monotype A Day project out of this commitment. Each day she creates an original monotype print and posts it to social media, even going so far as to bring her print studio to the hospital with her for a week so she would not miss a day. Archibald sits and attempts to empty herself so that the sacred universal flow of creativity can come through her, through her work and, be passed on to her viewers. “Making art keeps me alive, dipping into the creative flow nourishes and heals me. I know I wouldn’t be alive today without it. I am beyond grateful for every minute spent creating. It’s my hope and intention that the transformative healing I feel while creating is passed on to those who experience my work.”
Some Fun Facts about Me
1) I dressed like Charlie Chaplin until I was 10 years old and even tried to eat a shoe
2) I own hundreds of beautiful hats and fascinators
3) I am a board game fanatic
4) As a kid, when everyone else was listening to pop music and rock, I was listening to the Andrew Sisters and Bing Crosby
5) I always cut my pancakes up completely before adding syrup. Any other way is just wrong!
6) My favorite poet is Rilke
7) No, I don't have a favorite color, how is that even possible? They are all so glorious