Recently, the Kennedy Museum of Art added a few new pieces to our collection. One of these pieces was Blindfold, by photographer Lissa Rivera. This image was highlighted in our recent exhibition Gesture of the Still Image, a selection of photographs from collections chosen for their portrayal of the human body in a moment of movement and/or emotion stilled by the artist. Blindfold belongs to Rivera’s Beautiful Boy series which involves her muse and partner, to call attention to expressions of femininity. Rivera and her partner, who is nonbinary, “work to navigate a world that seemed both newly accepting and yet inherently reviling of male displays of femininity… together [they] investigate[d] feminine fantasies presented throughout the history of photography and cinema” (http://www.lissarivera.com/beautiful-boy-chapter-i/).
The addition of photographs by artists Lissa Rivera and Lalla Essaydi expanded the ratio of female-identifying to male-identifying artists both in the Gesture of a Still Image exhibition and the Kennedy Museum of Art collections.
Rivera received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She currently works in New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA. In addition to her many photography projects, Rivera is also a curator who works to “include underrepresented voices regardless of formal education or exhibition history” (http://www.lissarivera.com/about/).
From: Votive Portrait (Prayer Closet), Lissa Rivera, 2018, archival pigment print
Tristen Luken, Educational Programs Assistant at the Kennedy Museum sent interview questions to Lissa Rivera directly after the museum purchased her photograph. Below are Luken’s questions along with Rivera’s responses.
This text appears in the exhibition: Gesture of the Still Image is a selection of photographs from KMA collections chosen for their portrayal of the body in movement or displaying emotion. Within this exhibition, one can witness the way an image tells a story in a single frame and allows the viewer a glimpse into the human condition. Knowing the goal of the exhibition, could you comment on how you feel your work creates a sense of movement in a still image?
“I tried to create a moment of suspension by using the doorway to frame the image. It places the viewer in the active position of either opening or closing the door on the subject, whose vision is blindfolded. We are allowed to look at them, and observe them, but they are unable to see ‘us.’ There is a feeling that they are patiently waiting to be released from this state of ‘in-betweenness.’”
Rivera’s intent was to “show his femininity as strength… By presenting [her] partner within the lineage of great beauties and populating the media with [their] images, [they] are reclaiming [their] voice in what is attractive and beautiful.”
Do you have any new projects you are working on that you would like to talk about? How has your practice evolved since completing the Beautiful Boy series?
“Since Beautiful Boy I have worked on another project called The Silence of Spaces, which focuses more specifically on the relationship of religious faith to gender and the body. In this work, I include my own body [alongside her partner’s] in many of the images.”
What would be some advice that you would give to emerging artists that are part of an underrepresented community in the “art world?”
“I would recommend not to compare oneself to one’s contemporaries in an unproductive way. Similar to sports–no one ever made it to the major leagues without working hard to perfect their skills–artists must put much time and effort into their practice. It is important to be confident in what you have to say and how it is in conversation with the history of art preceding it–even if it is to question it. Find a way to make things inexpensive. Focus on role models who had limited resources and those who achieved the unexpected despite the social norms that could have held them down.”
If you would like to see Lissa Rivera’s work in person, Blindfold will be on display in our Visual Literacy Gallery upstairs at the Kennedy Museum of Art beginning August 2023.
To see more of Rivera’s work visit http ://www.lissarivera.com/
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