Interview Section: John sitting in front of his mural. "I've known so many who puke on a canvas and call it a masterpiece." - John Rivera-Resto



A revealing conversation with John Rivera-Resto

by Sophie Campos de Orsini

          The first time I spoke with John Rivera-Resto was over the phone. As a free-lance writer interested in Hispanic Art, I was familiar with several pieces of his work, but my expectations of the artist were based on the impressions of others who had met with him personally. Much as I tried, my mental image was far from clear because, it seem, everyone had a different impression of him.

          At times, it felt as if he was several different people. And, after appraising the art, each piece appeared to have been painted by different hands. The styles, the colors, and even the mood of the paintings was never the same; Hispanic themes were rare. But the signatures on the paintings were identical. After all, how many artists have the surname Rivera-Resto?

          To make things even more interesting, I came across people who showed surprise when I mentioned that John was a painter. They knew him as an actor of religious or classical Spanish plays, and others as a writer. This revelation strengthen my resolve to speak with this artist since now we had something in common. But no one, I quickly surmised, knew much about him other than a shared recollection of a talented, enigmatic, and very likeable but private individual.

          Eager for an interview, I called his Cleveland number; he answered on the first ring. However, all the scenarios I had mentally rehearsed for this moment where momentarily forgotten when I heard this slightly accented and firm businesslike voice say, "John speaking, can I help you." I almost hung up. I was about to do so when the same voice gently repeated the line with what sounded like a tone of amusement. And, in the words of the old cliché, that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

          I have spoken with John many times since and got to meet him in person during his visits to Florida. Our conversations have always been interesting and delightful and I am continually intrigued by him. He answers every question in a straightforward and affable manner but I am left with the notion of having barely touched the surface of his inner self. We talk about art, his experiences as an artist, the people he meets, and life in general. But the more you know of him, it seems, the less you know him.

          If a few words could best describe him, then bold, confident and unrestrained will have to be at the top of the list. But you also have to add meticulous, perfectionist and practical to get the balance of his personality. And, there is also his accent; you have to imagine it. It doesn't sound like the typical Puerto Rican accent. It does sound Spanish but with what I can only describe as a cultivated-Mediterranean-Spanish inflection. His tone and polite manner, though, are pure Latino.

          Perhaps, the best way to introduce you to the artist is by listening to him. The following interview is based on a compilation of questions I have asked him over the last year. If you would like to ask your own questions, please address them to his e-mail: