Valerie Skakun

  • Artist/Educator
  • Ridgewood, NY

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I am an artist/educator based in NYC. My work spans across several mediums, incorporating sculpture, textiles, installation, performance, sound, and curatorial projects. I received an MFA from Hunter College of the City University of New York in 2019, and a BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 2009. I am appreciative to the Queens Council on the Arts for awarding two grants, PlySpace Residency Program for a Resident Artist Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center for an Artist Opportunity Fellowship, and to Highly Authorized for a fully funded residency.

My red blood cells are mutated, spherically shaped and fragile; at age five I became severely anemic and underwent an emergency splenectomy, leaving my body immunocompromised. For decades, as a way of survival as a chronically ill person, I have researched ways to boost immune systems in order to improve cell function and create healthy microbiomes.

In 2014 I was struck by a car, whose driver ran a stop sign, while on my bike and left unable to walk for a year, resulting in permanent damage to my bones, ligaments, and muscles; I have since navigated life with chronic pain. Though utilizing a daily physical therapy routine in an attempt to re-build my muscles to take the load off of my joints, my left leg is visibly smaller, weaker, and in much more pain than my right.

Due to a neglectful capitalist healthcare system, whose focus is a final outcome of "fixing" bodies just enough but not more than to be able to return to work, many of my symptoms have gone without proper care, with suggestions of further highly invasive surgeries that will leave me unable to walk for yet another year and without my insurance covering the outpatient care which invasive surgery entails.

Being immunocompromised with a blood disorder and no spleen, in addition to the multiple bodily injuries incurred, I vitally rely on the healthcare system for infectious disease emergencies, life-saving medicine, routine check-ups, blood tests, and imaging; I am extremely fortunate to have access as millions of people are uninsured in the United States. However, since there is little to no support in holistic care, I have researched ways in which to treat my symptoms, providing myself the preventive and restorative care in which the healthcare system fails, and have translated my daily rituals into art making processes.

The philosophy of my recent body of work is informed by the process of being routinely sick, learning to walk again, and regrowth after atrophy, referencing "organs" as a double-meaning of body parts and musical instrument, physical therapy equipment, prosthetics, decaying organic matter, and plants/foods which protect and heal our bodies. I have explored sculptures as objects of ritual, collaborative movement, and play, ranging from time-based devotions to endurance trainings in order to transform mental and physical states of being. The materials and rituals which help to regain and maintain a somewhat functioning body and immune system inform the materials and processes used in my sculptures.

I am one half of interdisciplinary collaborative Skakun&Spadine. Together we work in the realm in which the physicality of sculpture and sound overlap. Our sound sculptures have been performed at art and music venues across NYC, including Outpost Artist Resources, Pioneer Works, NY(G), 205 Hudson, and Club Sourdough.

See videos of performances here: https://vimeo.com/user80239543