About the Cover, Issue 76:
Luisa Rivera’s The Secrets of the Night

Jakob Vala

The Summer Reading 2018 edition is out now wherever literary magazines are sold! The issue is full of new works by the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, Yusef Komunyakaa, Catherine Lacey, Lia Purpura, and Shane McCrae, but the first thing you’ll see is the cover, featuring this painting by Luisa Rivera.

This issue’s cover artist, Luisa Rivera, sees a creation myth in her painting The Secrets of the Night. Though the women depicted are decidedly modern—Rivera says they remind her of “themed synchronized swimmers”—they speak to the ancient tradition of storytelling. The secrets they share generate “something strange that allows the earth to be shaped around them.” They manifest ideas of mythology and folklore.

Nature and the female figure have always been instinctual subjects for Rivera. Now she approaches those themes with more intention and other topics have emerged for her, such as spirituality, mythology, and environmental issues. In addition to her figurative work, she has a number of pieces that play with patterns of flora and fauna, inspired by the designs of William Morris.

Rivera enjoys studying gestures, often using multiple photo references for one piece. She combines images, “like a collage: the hand from one, the nose from the other.” She primarily works by hand with watercolor and gouache and makes final adjustments digitally. Rivera finds the layering of water-based paints meditative, a process in which she can trust her intuition.

Rivera’s palette has a vintage quality. The composition in The Secrets of the Night is almost baroque in its use of diagonal shapes and movement. Her aesthetic has been called surrealist, but she identifies more with magical realism, “which creates uncanny or strange atmospheres in daily scenarios.” Her lush flora and narrative style made her the perfect artist for the illustrated edition of a classic of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. You can see more of Rivera’s art at www.luisarivera.cl.

Written by Tin House designer Jakob Vala, based on an interview with the artist.