Shalom Life | September 19, 2014

Vivian Reiss Joyful Rebellion

Veteran painter Vivian Reiss uses her sense of joy for inspiration.

By: James Fanizza

Published: September 11th, 2009 in Culture » Art » Interviews

Vivian Reiss Joyful Rebellion

The artist’s perspective on life always comes through in his or her work. Whether it’s an escape from life seen as distorted reality, or a sense of pain, or social criticism, it’s always physically manifested in the artists’ creations. Nine times out of 10, artists – especially painters -- have the idea that suffering is art. They’re portrayed as pained individuals, sad, or even a bit mentally unstable. I mean, Van Gogh cut off his own ear for goodness sake. Veteran Toronto-based painter Vivian Reiss wants you to know that this portrait simply isn’t true. Her love of life and the fullness with which she enjoys it is reflected in the vibrancy and the beauty of her brightly coloured paintings.

Born in New York in 1952 to Hungarian immigrants, she knew from a young age that she wanted to become an artist. At the age of nine, while visiting the Prado Museum in Madrid, she officially declared herself an artist. Reiss pursued fine art studies at The School of the Museum of Fine Art and the Art Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. Her work gained recognition and support from veteran artists and she steadily grew as an artist.

Vivian Reiss’ thirst for travel is an important element to her works, seeing she’s traveled all over the world. Living with nomadic herders in Kyrgyzstan, painting elephants in Africa, and studying dance in Bali have all been major inspirations in her life, and their inspiration is reflected in her work. Her desire for travel has also lead to her work being exhibited all around the world. She has created work for the Echigo-Tsumari Triennial, the largest international art exhibition in Japan, and was even commissioned by the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo to display portraits of prominent Canadians in the arts.

Reiss opened the “V Reiss Gallery” at 500 College St. as a showcase and exhibition space for Reiss’ artistic projects and collaborations. This unique and inspirational exhibit space was designed by Reiss herself, which is evident with the dancing monkeys engraved in the exterior wall just outside the entrance, and is one of the only opportunities in Canada to view a body of work in an environment designed by the artist themselves.

Her upcoming exhibit entitled “El Museo del Jardín de la Humanidad” (The Museum of the Garden of Humanity) will be showcased at the Gardiner Museum in Queen’s Park. The exhibit is a show of portraits of immigrant Mexican farm workers who harvest and plant in Southern Ontario’s farms and nurseries, as well as paintings inspired by her own massive garden in downtown Toronto. Her exhibit is a heartfelt and inspiring project in which Reiss has created intimate portraits of these often anonymous farm workers who travel from Mexico, and illuminates the connection between the physical human efforts and endevours and the land on which we depend.

Creating an intimacy between the subject and the artist, her paintings are both vibrant and joyous. She has a deep understanding of elemental aesthetic concerns which complements her deep sense of joy and passion for creation. “I don’t believe that for something to be good, really good, it has to be arcane or painful,” said Reiss. “That is a myth that is outdated. Joy is a vastly underrated artistic expression.”

For more information: www.vreiss.com

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