The singer and artist Maria Rivas is passionate about music, but not just about one genre or style in particular. Rivas, who started her career in 1990 with her extraordinary album Primogénito, seems to be in love with all the sounds of the world.
With her velvety voice and accompanied by top Latin Jazz musicians , the singer has demonstrated her eclectic taste through an eclectic and varied repertoire that includes elegant versions of classic such as "Bésame Mucho" and "Moliendo Café;" jazz standards such as “A Night in Tunisia,” the English melancholy of the art rock group Genesis and its “Mad Man Moon,” as well as surprises as unexpected as her delicious rendering of the grunge anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” by Nirvana.
It is not a surprise, then, that Rivas became the perfect candidate to create the official art that celebrates this year’s 14th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards. And since she was offered the task, Rivas approached it with the passion that is her trademark.
“When they gave me the news that I was chosen to create the art for the Latin GRAMMY, I was in Mallorca, visiting my family,” says Rivas from her home in Venezuela. “Luckily, I had my art materials with me so I could start sketching immediately. One afternoon I painted the gramophone, but I felt something was missing. Given that the music today has become an audio visual art, I decided to add an eye coming out of the gramophone next to the multicolored notes, this way reflecting the tendencies of the new millennium.”
The work was created with acrylics over a canvas, utilizing fluorescent colors and the influence of eth cubist movement. The ease of the lines and the harmony of the final composition leave no doubt: while María Rivas has just celebrated 30 years in music, the visual arts have been a constant presence in her life.
“Destiny took me towards music, but I always had a little something in me that wanted to show the world my painting style,” she explains. “I studied art all my life and as a kid, I had the influence of my dad, who loved Picasso and Matisse. He had a newspaper and he did all the titles and the letters, as well as the cartoons. Thanks to him I learned the art of calligraphy.”
Still, Rivas did not pursue a collaboration with The Latin Recording Academy. It was a friend of hers who believed in her talent and who, unbeknownst to her, proposed her work.
“This friend of mine likes my style very much. When he realized the Latin Academy was doing a pre-selection of an illustrator for this year’s art, he asked me for copies of all my work. There was a final round of four artists and luckily they chose me. My friend says it’s life’s poetic justice that I get recognition for my art.”
The good news has generated a wave of inspiration in Rivas. Afterfinishing teh painting for the Latin GRAMMY, she started a new series of seven works inspired by some of her favorite Latin American musicians. One of her paintings pays tribute to Agustín Lara and his torrid love for María Félix. There are also works about Oscar D'León, Astor Piazzolla, Sara Montiel and Gustavo Cerati , the singer of the group Soda Stereo, among others.
“The idea behind this collection is to represent the archetypes and the mysticism of Latin American music,” says Rivas. “I’ve combined my own style with the esthetics of artists such as Matisse, Picasso and Chagall , the Fauve movement and the world of comics, which has always been a great influence. To my eras, Agustin Lara was the Cole Porter of the Latin world, and María Felix was the Ava Gardner. They bonded in a destructive passion that generated music as tender as it was romantic.”
Rivas´s idea is to show the new paintings during a tour in which she would sing classics of the Latin American songbook.
“I would love to take this tour to Miami but also Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina and other countries. The idea would be to evoke Latin music through the soul of all these great artists.”