SIL­VIA RO­DRÍGUEZ RIVERO: LOVE IS A FORM OF FAITH

Oncuba Travel - - CONTENTS - Estrella Díaz

Sil­via, daugh­ter of well-known

Cuban mu­sic and cho­ral in­struc­tor Cuca Rivero, and wife of renowned com­poser and pian­ist José María Vi­tier, de­cided in 2012 to take up the paint­brush and since then she hasn't stopped paint­ing.

Sil­via Ro­dríguez Rivero ( b. 1952, Ha­vana) has a very unique and unusual artis­tic tra­jec­tory: nom­i­nated in 2000 for the Latin Grammy Award and the Cubadisco Best Record Pro­ducer Award in 2003 and 2013, and win­ner of the top prize in Mu­si­cal­ized Po­etry at the 17th NOSSIDE In­ter­na­tional Po­etry Prize event in Italy, about seven years ago she be­gan to paint and im­merse her­self into the world of vis­ual arts.

Since then, she has had 15 personal ex­hi­bi­tions in Europe and in sev­eral Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, among them, La luz de lo im­posi­ble, El reino de otro mundo, Ofren­das and Yo te amo ci­u­dad, the lat­ter dur­ing the re­cent 13th Ha­vana Bi­en­nial in April- May 2019. Her pieces are in gal­leries and pri­vate col­lec­tions in Latin Amer­ica, Europe, and the United States.

Agrad­u­ate of the Fac­ulty of Eco­nomics at the Uni­ver­sity of Ha­vana (1977), Sil­via Ro­dríguez Rivero has had an intense cre­ative life in sev­eral veins of knowl­edge: re­search, writ­ing, and po­etry, and she has also been the artis­tic direc­tor and record pro­ducer of mu­si­cian José María Vi­tier, the son of two quin­tes­sen­tial icons in Cuban cul­ture: Fina Gar­cía-Mar­ruz and Cin­tio Vi­tier.

In an ex­clu­sive con­ver­sa­tion with OnCuba, this exquisitel­y sim­ple artist con­fessed to us that “when you're well past

age 50, you be­gin to see ev­ery­thing dif­fer­ently and the everyday pres­sures be­gin to shift.” The need arises for a space of one's own; in her case, per­haps it had to do with her “per­sis­tent ef­fort to help my fam­ily and the vol­un­tary and joyful re­nun­ci­a­tions that life forced me to make, but which in turn opened many other paths and other worlds.”

In the dif­fi­cult 1990s —known in Cuba as the “Spe­cial Pe­riod,” when the is­land's econ­omy hit rock bot­tom— peo­ple joined to­gether. She de­scribes this time as “very fruitful,” es­pe­cially since Sil­via is very cre­ative and gives fully of her­self. But paint­ing came to her in a sur­pris­ing and un­ex­pected way, as she tells it: “our son José Adrián is, among other things, a painter, and one day he told me that he was go­ing to at­tend draw­ing classes that a friend was teach­ing and I told him: ‘I think that if I knew how to paint, I wouldn't stop.' He asked me, ‘Why don't you come with me?', ‘No way,' I said, ‘I don't even know how to paint a piglet!' How­ever, I at­tended three classes that were held spo­rad­i­cally be­cause at that time we had a lot of work and sev­eral trips. I re­mem­ber that the first class was draw­ing a cup and a mug, and that worked out well and when I got home I started draw­ing lamps and ev­ery­thing in sight. The third class taught by this bud­ding teacher was wa­ter­col­ors and, re­ally, I wasn't all that bad. She took out a paint­brush, poster board, and acrylics and she made a few brush­strokes and then gave me all the ma­te­ri­als. For me that paint­brush was an im­mense ob­ject —al­though to­day I sup­pose it would be a common brush— and I felt an al­most child­like feel­ing. It was like a dis­cov­ery, like some­thing very strong that moved within me; I scrib­bled and sud­denly I started to cry. I apol­o­gized and left and con­tin­ued to cry with joy. Art is very mys­te­ri­ous, even at that time when I still didn't know I was go­ing to ded­i­cate my­self to it.”

She says she's a quiet per­son, thought­ful and care­ful not to make a fool of her­self but, in re­la­tion to paint­ing, she had no fear or hes­i­ta­tion:

“I THREW MY­SELF INTO IT WITH­OUT FEAR, WITH TREMEN­DOUS DE­SIRE AND WITH AN IN­COM­PRE­HEN­SI­BLE FAITH; START­ING TO PAINT WAS LIB­ER­AT­ING AND GREATLY FUL­FILL­ING”

Af­ter a first artis­tic phase in which winged an­gels flut­tered about, her gaze shifted to fem­i­nin­ity be­cause she con­ceives of women as a poetic sym­bol that, she says, per­haps has to do with motherhood: “love is a form of faith.” That's why sev­eral themes are jux­ta­posed within her work: “it's true that the fig­ure of woman is pre­pon­der­ant, but through it I address vi­tal is­sues, such as nos­tal­gia, re­mote­ness, Ha­vana as the city I live in, where I have felt ev­ery­thing and in which all my po­et­ics and my need to cre­ate has grown.”

For Sil­via, the town­ship of San Cristóbal —celebratin­g its half mil­len­nium this Novem­ber— is “es­pe­cially mo­ti­vat­ing,” and those who ob­serve her paint­ings care­fully will spot farewells, tears, sadness, of­fer­ings, all that Ha­vana has to of­fer, and what it lacks.

Just seven years into her ca­reer as a vis­ual artist, Ro­dríguez Rivero hasn't hes­i­tated to leave her com­fort zone. On the con­trary, in par­al­lel to her two-di­men­sional work, she also cre­ates exquisite wooden al­tar­pieces that each tell a story with a be­gin­ning, mid­dle and end; they are like small/large mis­een-scènes made with a lot of cre­ativ­ity and in­ge­nu­ity: “I've used vol­ume to make playful and in­ter­ac­tive ob­jects. With the al­tar­pieces, one can play and move them around so that peo­ple build their own sto­ries.”

This artist —let's call her “emer­gent” in the sense that she still has a lot to pro­duce, to tell and show us— uses the com­plete pal­ette and, at the same time, the so­bri­ety of the ochres gives the fi­nal re­sult a dis­tinc­tive and el­e­gant touch, seeking, per­haps, a more muted range: “I feel color, I live it, but I pre­fer that some [col­ors] dis­solve into oth­ers. So much so that my back­grounds are ab­stract paint­ings, and some peo­ple have even rec­om­mended that I leave them like that, but the hu­man fig­ure al­ways ap­pears, sug­gest­ing sto­ries to me. Many times, sil­hou­ettes ap­pear on those same back­grounds, speak­ing to me and chal­leng­ing me, strange cities that re­veal themselves and all I do is capture them.”

She af­firms, with deep sin­cer­ity, that she ap­proaches paint­ing “with­out pre­ten­sion” and that the only thing she as­pires to is to stand be­fore a can­vas and be able to fill that void with ideas. “My goal is to dis­cover a dif­fer­ent form of beauty in each paint­ing. The feel­ing I have when I fin­ish a piece is that it be­comes a part of na­ture, of re­al­ity; it's an in­te­rior land­scape that re­veals it­self to me. I've been very for­tu­nate in life to be sur­rounded by won­der­ful peo­ple and to be­gin paint­ing at my age has been like a fi­nal prize. What greater gift could I ask for? I just give thanks.”

Ár­bol de las ofren­das ( Tree of of­fer­ings) / Acrylic on wood / Var­i­ous di­men­sions

En mi calle (On my block) / Acrylic on can­vas / 100 x 70 cm

Vir­gen triste (Sad virgin) / Acrylic on can­vas / 100 x 70 cm

Muchacha en la ven­tana (Girl in the win­dow) Acrylic on card­board / 100 x 70 cm

Honda le­janía (Deep re­mote­ness) / Acrylic on can­vas / 70 x 50 cm

Equipaje (Bag­gage) Acrylic on can­vas / 100 x 70 cm

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