Vanessa Rivero always knew that art was her life’s path.
“I experimented a lot and delved deep into self-study. I also studied in New York for a few months but returned to Mérida because it was important to me that, if possible, I should find ways to grow professionally and learn in Yucatán.”
When her uncle, Manolo Rivero, died in 2006, the renowned art collector left behind one of the only galleries in the state dedicated to contemporary art. So Vanessa and colleagues Humberto Chávez Mayor, Eugenio Encarnación, Omar Said Charruf, and Marco Díaz Guemez started an artists’ collective, Frontground, the following year.
“At first, we just wanted to continue Manolo’s legacy and keep the space alive. We didn’t know how long it would last, we had to see where it would take us. We ended up being active for 10 years.”
In Frontground’s final exhibit, Vanessa presented Orbis Spike. The work brings together many different aspects of her life as an artist, teacher, and researcher.
“I always return to the same themes: nature, space, and drawing. I am very keen to see how far I can take drawing,” she says. “In Orbis Spike, I question the ways in which we focus our attention and energy on nature, challenging preconceived ideas that we are somehow separate to it.”
Vanessa has continued to explore humanity’s relationship with spaces and the natural world.
“Drawings are always prevalent, but I also make sculptures, paintings, books, and other objects,” Vanessa says.
For example, during an artistic residence in Salzburg, she explored the city’s relationship with animals to produce a series of drawings and later contrasted these with a similar exercise in Mérida in a handmade book. She went on to present her work, El orden, una frágil conquista, at La Casa del Lago in Mexico City as well as Querétaro’s city museum. “Both exhibits had the same elements but were completely different.”
During her time in the Sistema Nacional de Creadores — a program in which the Ministry of Culture focuses on stimulating consummate national artists — space took special meeting for Vanessa once again. She presented Legado Natural at Salón Gallos, formerly the Avena Rivero factory.
“The factory was founded by my grandfather, so when I planned the exhibit, I didn’t just want to paint the walls and bring something new in; I wanted them to tell part of the story,” Vanessa explains. “Among other objects, the space is intervened with 23 symbols which represent the 23 chromosomes that can take different shapes, depending on how they are organized.”
After her Museo Experimental El Eco exhibit — Otros jardines, otra sangre — was interrupted by the pandemic, Vanessa took on Proyecto Sitpach, which was centered around observation. “I had a piece of land in Sitpach, which became my focus during the pandemic. I thought, ‘if I am always reflecting over plant and animal life, it makes sense that I should make a space where I can observe and connect with it.’”
She began work on her “punk garden” at first by simply allowing things to grow naturally, but she has since changed focus. “Unfortunately, the soil in our state was badly depleted by henequén monocrops in the 19th and 20th centuries, so a lot of work and effort has to be put into regenerating the native soil,” Vanessa says. “I have a ways to go before I can transform it into the wild environment I want it to be.”