Hinsdale native discovers home is where the art is

Home. That was the theme of the West Chicago art show Rachel Weaver Rivera participated in a few years ago. For Rivera, home as a child was in Hinsdale, and life's unfolding had now brought her back mid-life.

"I would be driving through the town thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I remember this event or that person,' " she related. "I thought I should do my own home show, because this is where my story began."

Rivera drove around town snapping images of buildings and sites that epitomized Hinsdale for her. She then turned each photo into a mixed media collage.

"I needed to reconstruct and layer, which is like the process of memory itself," she said.

Her collection of recollections is currently on display in the Quiet Reading Room of the Hinsdale Public Library, with a reception from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight (see Page 18 for details).

The vibrant pieces dazzle the eyes.

"These are all like funky, groovy-palate kind of colors," said Rivera, noting she grew up in the 1970s. "I was trying to evoke that time, but also that sense of joyfulness and kindness that was part of my upbringing in this town."

Art has long held Rivera's heart, and a teacher her creative skills to help others surface their inner feelings. More recently she became a counselor at North Central College.

"I'm just really interested in people telling the story of their lives in any type of language that resonates with them," Rivera said. "The first part of my life was helping people express themselves with visual arts materials. And now I help people express themselves with their words (and) find a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives."

Art as a medium is powerful revealer of truth, she suggested.

"I'm just interested in the mysterious part of life, the magic, what can't be expressed fully or understood fully and what is communicated between people and about places through visual language," Rivera said. "I love art because it has energy - not only of the artist that brings it life, but the energy that's brought by the viewer and what associations and connections they make with what they're seeing."

Her fond memories of growing up are reflected in her nostalgic yet whimsical works.

"I just remember a deep sense of kindness," Rivera said. "I feel like I was raised in a place where people really were attentive to how to support each other."

Faith communities in particular captivate her. Along with the smaller collages of churches in the exhibit, she also has composed large paintings of them.

"I like the idea that these places were holy or sacred spaces where amazing events happened for people - they got married or marked baptisms or the passing of life," Rivera said. "I feel like the churches in town are particularly infused with history and spirit and community."

She thinks art has a unique ability to inspire and connect all.

"I think the arts are central to every community," Rivera said. "They are the universal language and the way in which we can truly communicate without defensiveness and with the desire for understanding."

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean