Cans of paint, putty knives, paint rollers, paper and cloth cover the three tables that make up Miguel Rivera’s workspace in the Western Gallery. Rivera dances from one table to another; grabbing paper from one, mixing paint at another.
Rivera walked over to a large etching press set near the tables and began adjusting the press.
“Sometimes this takes a few tries,” Rivera says, laying a painted etching on the press.
Slowly, the press rolled over the etching and paper. Rivera picked up the paper and examined the paint.
“One more,” Rivera says smiling as he began to prep the press for another pass. “I think it just needs one more.”
The Western Gallery is currently hosting an art exhibition called Crossover/Cruce de Vias, a collaborative art project that started with Miguel Rivera, an artist originally based in Mexico, and Cara Jaye, a professor at Western.
The exhibition features the collaborative work of 27 artists. The works include paintings, drawings, prints and collages. They explore the concepts of migration and mutation with the use of viral patterns and images of coyotes.
Each piece brings with it the personal experiences and ethos of each artist who worked with it.
Rivera and Jaye met in 1995 at West Virginia University in Morgantown. Rivera was a graduate student and Jaye was a teacher, Rivera said.
“Because of our age we had a lot of similar ideas when it came to art and taking risks,” River said. “We were basically speaking the same visual language.”
In 2004 Jaye was on sabbatical and had been invited by Rivera to be an artist-in-residence in Guanajuato, Mexico, Rivera said.
“It didn’t really start as a big project,” Jaye said. “We were just getting together and making stuff.”
Jaye began working on a body of art with Rivera that included photographs and prints. However, when she left Guanajuato, several pieces remained with Rivera.
“I kept telling her you should be doing this, you should change this color, think about these images in a different way,” Rivera said. “So she said ‘why don’t you do it?’”
Rivera and Jaye began to correspond with images and worked to finish each other’s pieces with their own vision.
In 2006 they hosted two shows, one in Seattle and the other in Guanajuato. “I had my own show with the images I finished and she did the same thing with her pieces,” Rivera said. “Different versions of the same two hands.”
After these first two shows, Rivera and Jaye were joined by many more artists. The collaborative group grew to include 27 artists from Argentina, Mexico, U.S., Canada, South Africa, England, Colombia and South Korea.
With the addition of so many artists to the project, there were a few challenges that presented themselves.
Amy Chaloupka, exhibition curator and Western alumna, said many of these works were created by artists in countries that were not their own with people who did not speak the same language.
“There was always just a little bit of confusion of people not even knowing what you’re asking them to do,” Jaye said.
Rivera said it is difficult among some artists to open up to the idea of sharing.
“Most of the artists I know, they go into their cave, or so called studio and they don’t come out until it’s dinner time,” Rivera said, laughing.
Working in the studio together forces people to share resources and space, but it also makes them share ideas, Rivera said.
Rivera wants to open conceptual discourse between artists.
“People think I’m not sure of my own ideas,” Rivera said. “But I’m trying to pollute you with my ideas too. I’m trying to spread the disease, the thoughtful disease.”
While some artists may show resistance to the process of collaboration, others are excited by the opportunity to share their work with other artists.
John Feodorov teaches art at Fairhaven College and was recently invited by Jaye to work on the project.
“I’m fortunate in that I am also a musician,” John Feodorov said. “I’ve been doing that as long as I’ve been doing visual art and so that is a collaborative experience.”
While Feodorov has yet to add his contributions to the exhibit, he’s excited to be a part of such a collaborative project.
“I don’t hold what I do as precious,” John said. “So the idea of someone going over it or changing it into something else actually sounds really exciting to me, because that’s what I do as a musician.”
One of Rivera’s favorite aspects of this project was observing how people are more willing to share than they previously thought.
Alicia Candiani, an artist involved in the project, said this project allowed artists to get out of their comfort zones and think in a new way.
“This is a way to take the ego apart and learn to share and create through the ideas, shapes and skins of other people,” Candiani said.
Jaye hopes the exhibit will be beneficial to students at Western. Aside from having the art available to view, students have been able to receive critiques from some of the artists in the project, Jaye said.
“I’m hoping to spread a lot of excitement and energies and possibilities to the students,” Jaye said.
There will be opportunities to meet and listen to some of the artists in the exhibition, including Miguel Rivera, John Feodorov, Melanie Yazzie and Patricia Villalobos Echeverría. Visit westerngallery.wwu.edu for specific dates and times.