Joseph Sivilli explores matter and its impermanence in the physical universe through the creation of objects of supposed permanence constructed primarily through a process of his own creation that allows him to fire plant matter that he intentionally sprouts in clay. Sivilli chooses clay for its perceived association with earth and the link that humans and other organisms have with this basest, yet most central, substance of the material experience. When he fires his objects, the sprouted plant matter is eerily and delicately frozen in time, and induces observers to encounter and accept the transience and fragility of matter and thus also consider the relatively short experience of biological life.
Sivilli uses classical East Asian vessel forms as the basis for many of his pieces – forms that he refined through residencies in Korea and Japan. These forms also play on the concept of the transience of matter through allusion to museum collections where these types of vessels are exhibited to represent immutable examples of the artistic and technological expertise of distant eras. Through the combination of these vessel forms and fired plant matter, his work again directs the viewer to contemplate the irony that though esteemed vessels are displayed and archived in protected environments, no matter the measures employed, they are still going through an inevitable process of delayed decay.