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Daniela Rivera on social isolation: ‘Artists are so well suited to adapt to these circumstances'

Boston-based visual artist Daniela RiveraDeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Daniela Rivera, who last year was awarded the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum’s Rappaport Prize, makes installation work that contends with societal trauma. She’s an associate professor at Wellesley College.

How has the coronavirus affected your practice?

I was supposed to be installing a show at LaMontagne Gallery, and another after that, so that’s been suspended. I’m also thinking about how to work, knowing you cannot have the art be experiential. My art is meant to gather people around. It’s like having to rethink your practice in two seconds.

How are you dealing with it?

I went through panic and depression, and now I’m at this kind of manic stage of opportunity and potential. I’m reconnecting with the basics. I grew up in Chile in the 1970s and ‘80s, during dictatorship and social unrest. Art created a community, provided a voice, even though artists had access to nothing. Now we have the same opportunities. Artists are so well suited to adapt to these circumstances.

What were you planning for the LaMontagne show?


I was going to draw on the wall a big stop sign with copper point. It will be labor intensive and extremely…

A sketch by Daniela Rivera.Courtesy Daniela Rivera


Yes. I’m hoping I can do it now, maybe on a smaller scale. Make drawings and send them by mail. It’s smaller, but it can have a huge reach.

What are you telling your students? They’re preparing their thesis exhibitions. That’s all gone. We cannot replicate [online], so we must adapt. It’s really a beautiful thing, being an artist, we work with and through restrictions all the time.

So restrictions are in the job description.

As artists, we figure out what the problems are and work with them. It activates creativity, it generates movement.

What’s the plan, then, for the thesis exhibitions?

First, a publication, on paper. … We’ll of course create a website, but I’m looking forward to the object, something that can be mailed, that can be held, that can have smaller art pieces inside it.


And in your own art?

I’m going back to drawing. Right on the wall. It’s immediate, crucial, urgent, democratic, and accessible. I’m weirdly in this state of action and creativity. This is an opportunity we have as humanity to stop and reset.

Interview was edited for space.

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.