With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, book stores like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla, Libros AC in Santurce and Libros 787 online, and independent festivals like Feria de Libros Independientes y Alternativos and Tintero: Festival de Cómics y Arte Independiente de Puerto Rico have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.
Vanessa Rivera is a visual artist focused on mosaics.
What got you into the visual arts and mosaics?
Since I was little. I knew I would find my profession within the arts. I loved painting, drawing and everything that was related to the field. I found my destiny in mosaics ten years ago when I took some courses in the Museo Contemporáneo.
How did you develop your style?
I found my style after experimenting with various materials and independently studying mosaic techniques. In Puerto Rico, this medium is not practiced or studied a lot. A fun fact is that internationally this form is mostly practiced by women, whereas in the past it was a male-dominated field.
How has it evolved through the years?
The most important part of my evolution took place in 2015 when my mosaic work won first place in an international competition in Italy and then in Turkey. After that my career took a much more serious turn where I look to stay active presenting my work across Puerto Rico and other parts of the world.
What are some of your influences and inspirations?
Among my influences there are a variety of artists from fields such as material art, textiles and mosaics. Some of these include Anatsui, Antonie Tapies, Olga de Amaral, Giulio Menossi, Marco Bravura and others.
Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?
My work is sculptural mosaics, so I wish to pursue sculpting and blend it with my mosaics at some point.
What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?
The current state of the arts in Puerto Rico is complex due to our social, political and economic status. Despite that, artists are committed to their work, an avant-garde one which is constantly looking for themes and great control over technique which makes us as good as any artist around the world.
What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?
Within the independent scene there is a great movement and, despite the economic problems, everybody is motivated to strive, so many apply for grants as well as possible residency around the island and other countries with easy access to the internet and social media.
If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?
For more than 18 years, I have been an educator in the field of art and when I find talented young people I tell them to pursue their dreams and to be persistent because, despite the difficulties, Puerto Rico needs talent. It needs to have people who write its story through the arts so it can be stronger and our culture can persevere.
What is your biggest goal right now?
Currently, my goal is to work under the Lexus grant which I won recently. I am going to work with mosaics on a large scale.
What do you seek to achieve with work?
With my work I have found a solid ground to develop mosaic as a part of the plastic arts. I wish to pave a path so that young people can learn and delve into this medium and take it to its maximum potential.