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PHOTO-2023-08-07-16-48-29 (1)_edited_edi

Silvia Rivera Barrientos, who lives and works in Castro, was aware from an early age of being a painter, always knowing that her destiny had to do with art, even though she could not dedicate herself to it given the limitations of her family life and, later, work. Parallel to that life, Silvia filled small notebooks - a habit she has never stopped - with sketches and notes of the paintings that she would one day make when she was older. Participating in a school painting competition, she won an early prize that allowed her to travel to Spain to visit art museums, further confirming that art would be her vocation. Coming face to face with the masterpieces of Velázquez, Goya, Rembrandt and Rubens, she intuitively understood what they were about: how expression was supported by an architecture that was mysteriously revealed in the rhythm of the brush strokes, the legibility of the colors and the gestures.

Years later, Rivera bought her first professional brushes, after which she was able to paint freely. Since then it has never been entirely clear if the images she paints come from her memory, or if they are a Chilote dream of the past and future of the community. Coexisting among neighbors, family and friends, her scenes animate the daily life of a Castro that is full of traditions, legends and customs.

Rivera's paintings have a social and healing function, through scenes that come from various remembered and imagined sources. They depict what life was like before, how the Chilote stove brought people together, and how people at home lived in impoverished solidarity, or how they communed in the streets, on boats and the now-vanished train. Her imaginative freedom oscillates seamlessly between mythology, history and reality, and her paintings serve as windows to memory, showing us in 2023 the long-gone Castro train station or the ever-present palafitos coexisting with the Caleuche ghost ship, with the Pincoya, protector of the waters, or Trauko, caretaker of the forests, with the rooster that announces miracles and misfortunes, and the winged horse that lifts the spirits of a community struggling to pass its culture on to future generations.

Text by Dan Cameron and Ramón Castillo

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