After having broken the rules in Brazil by successfully participating in an
area (engineering) normally dominated by men, Sílvia Poloto turned her life
upside down. This metamorphosis, however, would only be complete following her
journey from Brazil to the Golden Gates of San Francisco.
Even before the 1960’s with the rise of the Flower Power era, the picturesque city of San Francisco has been
considered unique and often recognized as a cultural haven that welcomed from the wise to the weird. The city of the Golden Gate attracts people from all parts of the planet, with their different beliefs and cultures. Many come looking for liberty in the bohemian cafés found on every corner, others are hopeful of fulfilling dreams in a way they would never be able in their own town.
A visitor today needs only to be aware in order to be guaranteed an encounter with the unexpected in this magic
city. That’s what happened to me. My recollection of the exact location is somewhat blurry, but it was in a very cozy
café, during a cold winter’s evening, under a thick blanket of fog.
Among exotic teas, butter cookies and succulent pies, I met Sílvia Poloto, a Brazilian, and Bill, her husband. (Bill
is from Ireland but lived in Brazil for nine years and speaks perfect Portuguese.) It was one of those rare encounters
where you feel you have known the people for many years and have so much in common with them. For one of
those serendipities of life, we happened to share the same table and began a conversation that has continued until today.
We had so much to say that we decided to meet every week. Like the great writer Fernando Sabino we arranged
our meetings at the end of the afternoon.
From hundreds of stories we exchanged one in particular comes to mind — the whirlwind meeting of the couple
during the height of summer on a tropical beach in Bahia, in the northeast of Brazil. Their brief but fateful encounter
only allowed for telephone numbers to be exchanged. It wasn’t until one year later that they were able to meet again in
the city of São Paulo, where Sílvia lived and developed her career as an engineer. Just like in the movies, the couple
fell madly in love and were married within a week. Crazy? Who knows, maybe so. However, some like to call this love
at first sight.
Following Sílvia’s graduation in Engineering from the University of São Paulo (USP) and her obtaining a
master’s degree from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, she enjoyed a calm lifestyle working for a major corporation. This
would continue until their move to the US two years after their wedding. “All of a sudden everything changed,” recalls
Sílvia. “I left my family, my secure employment and my country. Only then, feeling isolated from all familiar things in
my life, could I succeed in looking inside of myself and recognizing who I really was. I realized that everything I had
done until then was just to please my parents and my big brother whom I had always admired and who is also an
engineer. I had also wanted to prove that women can be as good as men — it didn’t matter in what area.”
Without playing the `feminist role’, Sílvia not only managed to conquer her space as an engineer in Brazil, but
was also able to conquer little by little her space as an artist in America.
As always the artists of the world can suffer for their passion. That is where Bill comes in. Having spent some
years of his life as a professional musician, he could understand and sympathize with Sílvia in her constant struggle
for artistic and financial success. This understanding has allowed Sílvia the necessary time to establish herself in the
local market, and attain recognition through group and individual exhibitions. “He helped me gain enough confidence
to give up a career and merge into the unknown”, the artist adds, while embracing her husband who she also
considers her best friend.
She went through different phases exploring different media, which allowed her to best express her creative self.
After producing many works in collage, découpage and mixed- media, she finally discovered the enlightenment of
welded steel. When describing the process of creating her life-size steel sculptures she stirs up so much passion that I
knew I had to see her sculptures for myself. We then went to her loft in the SOMA district (south of Market St.). Her
place is very reminiscent of those New York lofts often seen in Hollywood movies. However, the artist’s unique living
and working space did not impress me nearly as much as her sculptures did. To say the least, I was shocked. The
sculptures standing proud and dynamic, seemed to dance throughout the sunlit and airy space.
Looking at Sílvia, who weighs only 110 pounds, I found myself wondering how she managed to weld together
these heavy pieces of steel. She only laughed when I told her this, because for her, heavy work never stopped her from
doing anything. Bill intercedes here to tell me that the most gruesome part is when she goes to the scrap-metal yards to
choose her pieces among the mud, giant magnetic cranes and industrial trucks. These pieces of discarded metal, which
were once destined for the melting furnaces, are now being transformed into beautiful pieces of art that will give
inspiration and pleasure to many.
Sílvia’s passion for life and art is definitely contagious. I have now become an admirer and friend of this artist.
I continue rooting for her, the artist who found enormous satisfaction and magic in the pounding, cutting, grinding
and welding of raw steel which she manipulates and molds until it becomes one of the most sacred things in the world:
a work of creation.
San Francisco has already recognized Sílvia’s value as an artist. Following a very successful solo exhibit at 333
Bush Street last October, Alexandra Cefalo, art dealer and curator, has invited Sílvia to give another showing at the
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