The Utah Daily Column | A deep dive into UMFA’s “Space Maker”


Creator of space, an exhibit featuring various art forms, opened at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday, August 21. The exhibition presents work from the U faculty and is curated by U former student Nancy Rivera.

“I am really proud of all the work that has been selected,” said Rivera. “Seeing it, it’s really, really cool, and I hope when people see it they’ll have the same feeling of excitement.”

This is the first show Rivera has put on at UMFA, but she’s no newbie when it comes to the Utah art scene.

“I am an artist,” Rivera said. “I work with a variety of media, particularly photography, 3D, and installation work, as well as some video work.”

Rivera has found her niche in photography, having graduated from U with her Masters of Fine Arts in Photography in 2016.

His interest began in his teens.

“In high school I took a photography class and that’s when I knew photography was my thing,” Rivera said. “I could never paint, I could never draw and [I realized] that the camera was something that I was really connected with.

While studying at U, she began to explore different artistic mediums and how they might work in tandem with photography.

“During my graduate studies, I really experimented with other media,” Rivera said. “I realized that I could use photography as a tool involving other media to develop the concepts I was working with. “

Rivera has worked on a variety of projects throughout the state of Utah, including Impossible bouquets: after Jan van Huysum at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art in 2018.

Jan van Huysum is an 18th century artist known for his paintings of flowers from different climates and seasons brought together in one scene, which was impossible in the 18th century – this inspired Rivera.

” Think about [his work]in the context of our contemporary world, I was sort of obsessed with it, ”she said.

Through her project, she brought a modern touch to van Huysum’s work.

“I picked the same flowers he used, but they were all artificial,” Rivera said.

She followed a style similar to how he designed his art photographing them after a florist arranged them.

“It referred to her work, but also highlighted, in a contemporary way, how we engage in something like mass production and all the different things that come with plastic flowers,” she said. “[It] too [focused on]the idea of ​​interacting with this work like a painting versus a photograph. It was a commentary on the modern ways we create and interact with nature.

Most recently, in October 2020, Rivera featured in a flexible sculpture exhibition for two at Granary Arts titled Facing Home.

“The theme of the exhibition was about our experience as multicultural people, of color and our experience of living in [the United States]”Rivera said.” For me it was about immigration. I moved from Mexico to the United States when I was very young, with my parents. [It explored] the idea of ​​what being an immigrant means to me personally, but also as the dynamic it has created for my family.

As a native of Mexico, Rivera reflects on the immigrant experience in much of her work.

“For a long time, I didn’t think of this experience as part of my job,” Rivera said. “Recently, especially after [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] became a thing and people my age started talking about being an immigrant, I think it opened up a conversation.

In 2017, Rivera became a naturalized citizen.

“This moment was the catalyst for [me]to think about including this experience in my work, ”she said. “This is how I started to push myself to think about the ways that I wanted to help and that I wanted to tackle through art.

In addition, in recent years, Rivera has developed his work as a curator.

“I work in the Utah Arts and Museums Division,” Rivera said. “I oversee the visual arts program there, and it gave me the opportunity to prepare works and exhibitions for the two galleries we run, the Rio Gallery and the Atlas Gallery. Independently, I also had the opportunity to put on a few exhibitions including Space Maker which was such an exciting endeavor. “

While organizing Space Maker, Rivera found herself on the U campus, working with familiar faces at UMFA.

“Many of us on the UMFA staff have known Nancy professionally and as an artist for many years,” said Whitney Tassie, Senior Curator of UMFA. “She has a very strong artistic practice and her work in the Utah Arts and Museums Division is well regarded. In addition, we have known her from her stay in the United States. She is one of us and knows the artists of [Space Maker], as well as the museum, the college and U in general. ”

As guest curator of this exhibition, Rivera had to choose the pieces to exhibit there.

“We invited all faculty members, including full and adjunct professors to submit work for inclusion in the exhibition,” Rivera said. “I think everyone works in such a unique way. There are a few similarities, but overall everything has its own unique cachet. It was hard to sit down and [figure out]what everything is about and what connects the works.

Space Maker will be at UMFA until December 5th. To learn more about the exhibition, visit the UMFA website.

To follow Rivera and her work, visit her website at

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