Artist goes back to creative field to thrive and fight health challenges
Antonio Rivera Rivera chooses happiness and truth amid challenging journey
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
After almost three years of being unable to return to work due to undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy, a rheumatoid disorder that’s often undiagnosable due to its wide-ranging symptoms, including body inflammation and general stiffness, and a steep fight against depression, artist and writer Antonio Rivera Rivera has returned to the art field to thrive, find his truth, and achieve happiness.
Rivera Rivera told the STAR on Sunday that his emerging passion for media such as painting, creative writing and photography began when he took painting classes at Liceo del Arte del Sur after losing a job three years ago.
As of today, he has been able to sell his artwork via his Facebook page (@Ariveraart) and write books such as his most recent title, “Todo lo que tengo ahora,” in addition to his two previous books; “Mi búsqueda,” which won first place in the fiction category at the International Latino Book Awards in Los Angeles, California in 2018, and “Letras de un escritor,” which he describes as that search for what he conceptualizes as truth, and has conceptualized about human existence through his experience.
As for “Todo lo que tengo ahora,” which means “All That I Have Now” in Spanish, Rivera Rivera told the STAR that the message he wants to convey is that everyone should take advantage of what is within reach now and make things work for themselves.
“It’s useless to try to find the culprits or excuse yourself [for a mishap] because you won’t find any culprits; it’s neither good nor bad, it’s simply what we must face to evolve,” he said. “[With my condition] everything hurts; visiting my family hurts, going back to my home hurts, sometimes moving my hands hurt. However, even if I face these struggles, I am happier than ever before as I just learned to face things one day at a time.”
For him, art, such as painting, always felt like a safe space where he found comfort in being vulnerable and having a dialogue that can resonate with a general audience.
Therefore, he gave himself the freedom to explore different styles and play with surrealism.
“As I painted, I was healing. And on the day I recognized myself as a painter, that day my life changed,” said Rivera Rivera. “I was always looking for a job and I never found a job, my resume was up to date, everything was alright, but I had a moment where I questioned [all of that]: ‘Well, God wants to do something else.”
Everything began to change when he painted a portrait titled “El hombre de la luna, Llanto de Luna,” which translates in English to “The Man of the Moon, Moon Cry.”
The painting portrayed a naked blue man standing on a floor, as his tears formed the moon when they fell to the ground.
“He was so in love with the moon that he ended up swallowing it, thus he began turning into the moon,” Rivera Rivera said. “The only way he would get the moon out of him so others could enjoy its beauty was by forcing himself to cry; that’s why the artwork is partially titled Moon Cry.”
At first, he believed that the portrait, which he painted twice, was his way of coping with his depression. Nonetheless, after a random acquaintance visited his home and saw the piece, a comment brought Rivera Rivera to tears as he recognized that the portrait held an answer he sought for a long time.
He was no longer coping with sadness; art helped him defeat depression.
“I just got goosebumps by telling you this,” the artist said. “I noticed that sometimes we really carry things that don’t do anything good for us.”
The revelation led to a constant search for happiness and truth, which Rivera Rivera continues today.
“Happiness is in the present, not in what has been lost or what we are bound to lose,” he said. “I’m looking for a way to heal through the arts. … Just focus on what’s at hand; that is what makes us happy.”