Artistfacts: Paola Pivi

Artistfacts: Paola Pivi the creator of absurd but beautiful and poetic worlds.

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Paola Pivi is an Italian, multimedia artist based in Alaska.  She works in photography, sculpture, performance art,conceptual art and video. Her works are poetic and enigmatic associations. They will make you smile, potentially laugh, and want to engage further with the works. She has said that the ideas for the works come in visions to her and she then makes those visions real.

Paola Pivi creates an experiential playground in which animals- sometimes live- are a critical element as she finds that people have an instinctive reaction to animals be it fear or attraction.  She often puts these animals into odd situations as with the donkey in a small boat that she presented at the Venice Biennale where she won the Golden Lion Award in 1999.



The alligators in pits of whipped cream

The zebras in the snowy mountains


The horses on the eiffel tower


Or my all-time favorite, the leopard with the expresso cups entitled:” One cup of cappuccino then I go”


These are not photoshopped images. Paolo Pivi sets up these surreal, absurd situations placing animals in unfamiliar, insane situations and then, often working with photographer Hugo Glendinning captures them for posterity. How the animals react within these situations is an important part of the performance.

She has also orchestrated performances pieces with people as opposed to animals as with  “1,000 “where 1000 people screamed one scream in one breath, unrehearsed in the Tate Modern London 2009 and with “100 chinese” 1998 and 2005 (50 only) from her time living in China

However the pieces she is most known for I think and that are the most compelling are the neon bears. These pieces have titles that draw you in  such as:

  • Ok you are better than me , so what?
  • It’s not fair?
  • Don’t change my name please.
  • Life is great.
  • Have you seen me before.

All of these will bring a smile to your face. The titles put the viewer in a mood of being receptive and interacting without the artist giving any direction. Interestingly enough she generally does not come up with the titles, they are given by her husband, the tibetan composer and poet Karma Lama. IMG_0801


The bears became an important part of her life and her work when she moved to Alaska. The bear is the largest animal that can eat a human. Her bears are multicolored and covered with feathers, moving, flying, dancing and at play. They are made of urethane foam and plastic and covered with feathers.


Continuing on her ability to get the viewer to interact with the works and her strength in using absurd titles to entrance that same viewer into laughter and acceptance, she has made such pieces as:

“If you like it thank you, if you don’t like it I’m sorry but appreciate it any way.” Gates covered in rhinestones that the viewer must go around.

A performance piece using only white animals that viewers were led through entitled:”My religion is kindness, Thank you, see you in the future.”


Guitar, guitar that evoked Noah’s ark with all the objects paired two by two.

Finally, she has made smaller sculptures using rotating wheels with feathers of various birds that look a bit like dreamcatchers of the American Indian and are a commentary on time, the animal, movement,

And a series of drooping pearl wall sculptures that are probably influenced by her time in India while she was fighting for custody of her adopted son. I find these less poetic than some of her other works though still beautiful.


However, I must leave you with one more image of the bears, would you not love to join his leap of joy?








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