Lizzy De Vita

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Catastrophe, if we’re lucky enough to survive it, gives us an opportunity to reexamine our world and who we thought we were within it. My work creates small catastrophes, situations where the world does not follow our assumptions of relationality – I walk, therefore I will continue walking – and so allows us to see them as fragile, impermanent and conditional.

At age 27, an unidentifiable infection took hold of my brain. In a matter of days, I couldn’t walk, even stand. More critically, I lost my ability to think, envision images, speak or understand words. I lost my memories, my independence. Everything that I knew to be “me” evaporated.

Like an invaded country, I’m slowly regaining the territories of my former life. In the process, I’ve thought deeply about how our identities are created by assumptions we make – based on physical and mental patterns we form as we speak, move through space, and interact with the world. Having learned to stand and walk, for instance, I built an unexamined identity as one who walks. Having come into language, I assumed an identity as one who thinks. Where do we place ourselves in the world when these structural lattices start to unravel?

When infection destroyed my usual way of understanding things, it was terrifying, but strangely beautiful. At times, the dissolution of my cognitive framework left me feeling a calm co-extensiveness with the world. I felt diffuse, porous, boundless; the starkly delineated face I saw in the mirror became unrecognizable to me. And though I was without language, I still felt meaning. My deeply religious relatives might identify it as a communion with the divine. My queer family might see it as profound fluidity. But I don’t know what to call it, and I like that.

I feel that much of what’s meaningful in our lives occurs outside of the structures our more cognitive selves can envision. My work investigates moments where our paradigms shift irretrievably – to things as complex and large as mass migration, to things as close to home as a bedbug infestation, and to things as small and fundamental to life as the patterns of our breath. I work to loosen them from their existing place in the world, casting wide their meaning.

Catastrophes: What if a group of friends were forced to breathe alternately, one’s inhalation pressing another’s lungs inward? How do we see anew the simple act of breathing when it becomes interdependent? What if two straight, white male strangers must confront one another on the phone, first and last thing, each day for a month? Can their recorded words embody their increasingly complex feelings towards their invisible counterparts? What if a third party interrupts a duet between two dancers, inserting makeshift prosthetics to help them maintain difficult positions? As the objects assimilate into their physical vocabulary, how will these accommodations shift the way we and they see their ability?

Oceans swell, strangers collide, ticks bite and feed and suddenly lives are upended and changed forever. I take random catastrophes and push them beyond rational comprehension, to tarry in a space of our permeability in the world. My work aims to direct our focus to the parts of our lives that are alarmingly illogical, yet also creative of profound, inarticulable empathy — to borrow Gayatri Spivak’s phrase, “a radical acceptance of vulnerability.”

(b. 1986, New York, NY)


MFA, Sculpture  | Yale School of Art                                                                   New Haven, CT / 2013 – 2015

BA, English Literature, Art History (Vis. Arts) | Barnard College                                New York, NY / 2004 – 2008

Magna Cum Laude; Dept. Honors in English; Honors for thesis in English

Université de Paris VII, Jussieu, Reid Hall Program, Columbia U.                    Paris, FR / 2006


Solo Exhibitions + Individual Projects

The Sky Too Dreams of Rest | The Chimney NYC**                                                           Brooklyn, NY / 02.2016

Cassandra | MFA Thesis Exhibition, Green Gallery, Yale School of Art                                 New Haven, CT / 04.2015

Homographies  | Pittsburgh Center for the Arts                                                     Pittsburgh, PA / 02.2013

So Lo  | Assemble                                                                                            Pittsburgh, PA / 11.2011

SHIFT | Borelli-Edwards Galleries                                                                                                Pittsburgh, PA / 04.2011

[**Non-commercial project space]

Selected Group Exhibitions

Wearable Sculpture | Museum of the Moving Image                                                          Queens, NY / 05.2017

Collecting Anxieties | 67 Ludlow                                                                         New York, NY / 10.2016

Not for Sale | Girl on Girl                                                                                               Brooklyn, NY / 09.2016

(no subject)  | SCREEN_                                                                                                 The World Wide Web / 07.2016

Video and Performance Festival | The Chimney NYC                                              Brooklyn, NY / 07.2016

Il Festival de Arte e Tecnologia | Galeria Incubadora                                                          Atibaia, BRAZIL / 07.2016

Re-Juvenation Exhibition | Re- Exhibitions                                                                        Newburgh, NY / 04.2016

Person, Place, Thing: Eleven Artists Negotiate the Real | Barnard College                 New York, NY / 09.2015

Video Mixer | Green Gallery, Yale School of Art                                                    New York, NY / 09.2015

Lucid Gestures | Louise McCagg Gallery, Barnard College                                      New York, NY / 10.2014

For Ed: Splendor in the Grass  | Green Gallery, Yale School of Art                           New Haven, CT / 11.2013

GOLD STANDARD Presents: Fifteen Minutes of Shame | 937 Liberty                                   Pittsburgh, PA / 07.2013

Sound, Time, Space | 937 Liberty                                                                                   Pittsburgh, PA / 12.2012

Face Value: (De)Constructing Identity in Portraiture | U. Pittsburgh Art Gallery                        Pittsburgh, PA / 11.2012

Prolonged Exposure | The Invisible Dog                                                                Brooklyn, NY / 11.2012

Everything is Index, Nothing is History | The Invisible Dog                                       Brooklyn, NY / 06.2012
D for Devotion | Louise McCagg Art Gallery, Barnard College                                              New York, NY / 02.2012

artXwomen | AIR Gallery and Affordable Art Fair Manhattan                                                New York, NY / 05.2011

i am not a good enough feminist | Concrete Utopia                                                            New York, NY / 05.2011

Interplay | Pittsburgh Center for the Arts                                                              Pittsburgh, PA / 07.2010

99th Annual Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Exhibition | Carnegie Museum of Art     Pittsburgh, PA / 10.2009

Breathe the AIR | Artists Image Resource                                                            Pittsburgh, PA / 10.2008

Fetish | Barney Bldg., New York University                                                                      New York, NY / 09.2008

98th Annual AAP Exhibition | The Andy Warhol Museum                                         Pittsburgh, PA / 08.2008

97th Annual AAP Exhibition | Carnegie Museum of Art                                           Pittsburgh, PA / 11.2007


Prizes + Awards

Alumnae Fellowship for Graduate Study | Barnard College                                      New York, NY / 2014 – 2015

Artist Opportunities Grant | Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council                                                Pittsburgh, PA / 2012

Artist Opportunities Grant | Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council                                                Pittsburgh, PA / 2011

Aaronel DeRoy Gruber Award | 98th Annual AAP Exhibition, Warhol Museum            Pittsburgh, PA / 2008

Trust Entrepreneurial Internship Grant | Barnard College                                         New York, NY / 2007



Art + Research Residency (Research partner: Annabelle Boissier)  | Arts Cabinet       London and New York / 2016 – 2018

Funded Resident | Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski                                    Warsaw, POLAND / 08.2014

Grzegorsz Kowalski & Artur Zmijewski Creating Through Collaboration:

Space, Body, Camera International Masters Workshop

Invited Resident | Wassaic Residency                                                                 Wassaic, NY / 04.2013


Selected Publications + Writing

Lost for Words: On an Involuntary Exercise in Radical Stillness | by Lizzy De Vita for aqnb                   01.2017

Studio Visit with Lizzy De Vita | by Mira Dayal for On Verge                                                             04.2016

Prolonged Exposure Interview Series | by Anthony Tino for Recession Art                                         11.2012

Artist Interview: Everything is Index, Nothing is History  | by Ivy Challis for Recession Art                               04.2012

Medium and Media Challenged in Lawrenceville | by Kurt Shaw for Pittsburgh Tribune Review             04.2011

Lectures, Panels + Presentations

“Spooky Actions at a Distance” | Helena Anrather Gallery                                                              07.20.2017

a Performance/workshop in collaboration with Sarah Anderson as part of the Proximities series

“Art in Crisis” | Yale School of Art                                                                                                           02.20.2017

a lecture in collaboration with Allyn Hughes

“Radical Vulnerability” | The Wassaic Project                                                                                11.27.2016

artist lecture

WHAT NOW? | BombPop!Up                                                                                                       11.12.2016

moderator, panel discussion feat. Colleen Asper, Baseera Khan, & William Powhida

Here/Say: “(Re)Imagining the Citizen” | Barnard College, Fall 2016 – Spring 2017 Discussion Series

interdisciplinary discussion series ; founder, curator and moderator

“Art + The Election”                                                                                                        12.5.2016

feat. Maria de Los Angeles, Lumi Tan, Sam Vernon

“Art + Black Lives Matter”                                                                                                           10.24.2016

feat. Suhaly Bautista-Carolina, Kameelah Janan Rasheed

“Art + Immigration”                                                                                                         10.17.2016

feat. Maria de Los Angeles, Mahtab Pedrami

“Art + Community”                                                                                                         09.19.2016

feat. Camille Hoffman, Melissa Levin

Here/Say: “Voice” | Barnard College, Fall 2015-Spring 2016 Discussion Series

“The Power of Erotics”                                                                                                     02.15.2016

feat. Lumi Tan, Sam Vernon

“Body Talk”                                                                                                                    11.30.2015

feat. Sarah Esser, Brendan Fernandes

“Voicing a Politic”                                                                                                                        11.16.2015

feat. Jordan Castille, David Kim

“Words Working, Working Words”                                                                                      10.19.2015

feat. Sadie Barnette, Jonathan Basile, Keren Cytter

“Curators on Curating”                                                                                                     10.05.2015

feat. Natalie Bell, Joseph Buckley, Samuel Draxler

“Unpacking the All-Woman Show: Feminism, Intersectionality and Representation” | IDIO Gallery                    09.22.2015

panel also featuring Kiran Ghandi, Sam Vernon, Abigail DeAtley, moderated by Jacqueline Mabey

 Gender, Identity + the Artist’s Career | Yale School of Art

initiator, chief organizer, moderator

“Selection Bias”                                                                                                              04.23.2015

feat. Natalie Bell, Dan Byers, Sarah Fritchey, Lumi Tan, Rob Storr

“Discriminations”                                                                                                            03.25.2015

feat. Leslie Dick, Anoka Faruqee, Michelle Lopez, Will Villalongo

“On Being Women and Being Artists”                                                                                 01.15.2015

feat. Lisa Kerezi, Sulki Choi, Michelle Lopez, Ka-Man Tse, Natalie Westbrook

“Becoming Artists: Critique, Originality and Identity” (Panelist) | Yale University Art Gallery                 02.2014