From her earliest days, interdisciplinary artist Selva Aparicio (she/her) has honed a strong and deferential relationship with nature. Growing up in a boat-shaped house in the middle of the Serra de Collserola Natural Park in Catalunya, Spain, she was raised by proto-hippies who named her Selva, meaning “jungle.” Against this backdrop of creativity, chaos, transience, and tumult, she found solace in the natural world around her and cultivated her own sense of liberation through the arts.
Working with nature’s ephemera, including cicada wings, lettuce leaves, oyster shells, and human cadavers, her praxis is an extended death ritual which foregrounds a particular reverence for the deceased, discarded, and neglected. Aparicio’s keen perception of the meanings imbued in these materials and the rituals informing their sentimentality lends a unique perspective to her practice and allows her to present their reimagined forms not as entombments but rather as moments that capture both the donor’s and the artist’s labor to hold space and time for viewers to reckon with life, death, and human objecthood.
Her practice has evolved beyond the individual to encompass environmental, social, and political activism and evoke the change and rebirth she witnesses in nature. Her unique materials have become her trademark, and by sharing them in venues around the world, she is able to honor her roots; create outlets for the public navigation of grief and mourning; facilitate environmental, social, and political activism; and evoke the natural cycles of change, rebirth, and healing that started it all.
Aparicio received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2015) and her MFA in sculpture from Yale University (2017). Her work has been shown internationally in solo and group exhibitions including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago; Yale Center for British Art; Can Mario Museum, Spain; CRUSH Curatorial, New York; The Kyoto International Craft Center, Japan; Instituto Cervantes, New York; and the Centre de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona.
She received the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation Artadia Award in 2022, and her sculpture “Auto-da-Fé,” exhibited at EXPO Chicago in 2023, was donated to the DePaul Art Museum with funds from the Inaugural Barbara Nessim Acquisition Prize. She was awarded the JUNCTURE Fellowship in Art and International Human Rights (2016), the Blair Dickinson Memorial Prize (2017), and a MAKER Grant from the Chicago Artist Coalition (2020). In addition to serving as the visiting International Randall Chair in Sculpture and Dimensional Studies at New York’s Alfred University, she has a major solo exhibition at the DePaul Museum of Art in 2024 and is working on two permanent outdoor sculptures for the Belgium Beaufort 2024 Triennale and the Heraclea Archeological Park in Italy. Based jointly in Chicago and Spain, she melds key elements of her identity as a partner, mother, teacher, and artist to push herself and her field in new directions.
- Entre Nosotros/Among Us, 2020
- Entre Nosotros/Among Us (detail), 2020
- East of Eden (detail), 2023 The teddy bear, placed at the grave of a child as a tangible embodiment of grief and loss, has been imbued with the hope and rebirth of thousands of dandelion seeds.
- Childhood Memories, 2020 234 square feet of carved utility grade oak
- Our Garden Remains, 2022 Comprised of real and plastic flowers and assorted decorations collected from the trash bins of Chicago’s cemeteries, “Our Garden Remains” explores how we experience bereavement and share our grief.
- Our Garden Remains (detail), 2022 Comprised of real and plastic flowers and assorted decorations collected from the trash bins of Chicago’s cemeteries, “Our Garden Remains” explores how we experience bereavement and share our grief.
- Ode to the Unclaimed Dead (detail), 2022 The pine casket, synonymous with pauper’s graves and potter’s fields and devoid of all traces of ritual and remembrance, is delicately studded with dandelion seeds, the ultimate symbol of hope and potential.