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  • Bridney C.

Skeletons & Ghouls: A Wicked Discussion with Visual Artist, Joseph Rivera

By Bridney C.

Rivera, poses in front of his artwork at an art exhibition, "As We Know It" on August 8th at Hygienic Art Gallery.

It is a pleasure to interview Joseph Rivera for the Sweet Scoop.

Joseph is a 26-year-old visual artist from New London, Connecticut. Rivera, a first-generation Puerto Rican, was born to a mother who is an educator and a father who works with electronics.

He also grew up around other artists in his family, such as his uncle who is a DJ, and his cousin, JC, who is a visual artist. A lifelong artist, Rivera says he has always been in love with art since a young age.

800.550.0005, 2019. Acrylic.
"I love many mediums, even outside of visual art, and it's hard to balance at times. The skeletons are one body of work, but I also have a lot of digital design and woodburning that all vary."

Rivera says the first skeleton he ever drew was a "mistake," and he could not sketch the face very well, and found drawing out the bones was easier. Citing his style as eclectic, Rivera says his skeletons, often seen as the main subjects in his art, indeed symbolize more than what meets the eye.

Often painting feminine skeleton figures over pages of fashion magazines, his skeletons symbolize the fashion industry, and its deceptions of modern, western values. According to him, the fashion industry paints western-modern values in excess and waste.

"There's something of this hypnotic hedonism that I find while I'm flipping through the magazines - I wonder how other people in my economic class receive what they see," says Rivera.

After recently becoming a full-time artist dedicated to his craft, Rivera says he is thankful he is revisiting a passion of his he has tried to solely work on - between jobs and events in his life.

"This time, I feel like I have the practical knowledge to make it [my art] feasible, and at least it's fun. I get to be more intentional with my audience, collaborate, and entertain myself and others," says Rivera.

Rivera, at the 2020 Naked Canvas body painting event

Loss is something he has experienced numerous times in his life. Yet, at the same time, death is something he finds everyone has in common.

When people find that once he has covered a model in paint as a skeleton, they find it easier to find themselves in the image. He says he does not believe his skeleton subjects to be dark and mysterious, but rather whimsical.

Rivera has been working on several projects, including a mural with fellow artist, Gabby Shea. He is also creating music and playing the guitar after a few years of hiatus.

He is also working with transferring techniques with paper and different surfaces and getting into fashion design. Exploring community administration and organizing roles is another objective Rivera is working on to be involved with his community.

"Now that it's 2020, I think this kind of thing works. It feels almost like we've reverted to the Wild Wild West, and I get to be a cowboy," says Joseph Rivera.

Autumn is Rivera's favorite season along with Halloween and Day of the Dead are his favorite holidays. As a way to gear up for the spooky season, Rivera says he is hosting an open studio, where his work from the past and present will be on view.

Day of the Dead is a tradition that Rivera has always found to be both honorable and romantic. Referring to his skeletons in Spanish as "calaveras," he enjoys the beautiful imagery associated with the Mexican holiday such as the colors, flowers, candles that "illuminates a part of life that would otherwise be morose."

Queen of Diamonds, 2020. Acrylic. 2.5" x 3.5"

Rivera's family never celebrated Halloween, and the first time he went trick-or-treating was when he was nearing the age of eighteen. He made himself a robot costume made out of cardboard boxes.

Rivera is currently deciding between Spider-Man or Prince, which he says will be his third time if he ultimately chooses to be the Rock-R&B icon for Halloween this year.

He finds the fall season to be a fun and creative time of year and enjoys the "pageantry of costuming." Besides spending time with his two cats, Rocky and Lenore, Rivera says one of his favorite fall pastimes is taking walks in the cemetery.

"In terms of what I've learned - it's been thanks to all the artists I've worked with or alongside in the past. Whether it's something visual or words of wisdom, I have a lot of influences, and a lot of people I could personally thank for all of it."

2017 art piece inspired by Loreal Hair and Vogue Magazine.

For updates on Joseph Rivera and his art, be sure to

follow his page on Instagram


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