"Recordando a Ismael Rivera."
2013, Oil on Canvas. 16" x 20"
About this painting:
This painting was done as a homage to one of
the more important singers in the Bomba,
Plena, and Salsa Genres of Latin music, Ismael
Rivera. He was known for his raspy voice and
his particular style of improvising, which at
times went right over the chorus's singing
during a song. This is known as "breaking the
clave" (something which wasn't done until
Ismael Rivera came along on the music
scene). In this oil painting, I've done Ismael's
portrait in a loose grisaille style (monochrome
color, shades of grey). The rest of the painting
was improvised completely (taking my cue
from Ismael's improvisational singing style) as
the composition developed over time. In the
top background, I've painted a part of the
puertorican flag, left unfinished and still
developing, alluding to the culture of
puertorico still developing and pushing it's
artistic and musical language.

The vining flowers in the painting are known as
"Grandpa Ott's Morning Glories."  These flowers
are considered heirlooms among
gardeners/families who save certain seeds
from year to year in order to preserve a
special or unique quality inherit to that specific
seed for future generations to grow. So in the
same way these flowers are considered an
heirloom, so too is the extensive musical library
left behind by the "Sonero Mayor" (The
premier improviser) Ismael Rivera. His music is
not only obligatory for the serious study of
puertorican music, it is necessary for the
preservation of its history and it's development
for future generations of puertoricans and latin
musicians in general. It is important to save his
music from being forgotten, just like gardeners
do with heirloom seeds, preserving them in
order so that they don't become extinct or
lost.