Diego Miró-Rivera leaves his mark

Diego Miró-Rivera’s art may be ephemeral, but his time at Yale is leaving a long-lasting impression.
Diego Miró-Rivera

Diego Miró-Rivera (Photo by Anna Zhang)

Last summer, while sitting in a rural Guatemalan hospital with a severely twisted ankle after a fellowship spent searching for Mayan pyramids, Diego Miró-Rivera received an incredible email.

Months earlier, he’d reached out to an art collector, asking him to relay a pitch to the artist Andy Goldsworthy: two weeks of apprenticeship work, no salary required. Now, after months of silence, Miró-Rivera had his answer. The email he’d been waiting for contained just four words — a location, in Scotland, and a date less than two weeks away.

Those two weeks of apprenticeship were filled with hard work and long days, assisting the artist to create site-specific work outside with organic materials.

But it solidified that I want to do this for the rest of my life,” said Miró-Rivera.

Miró-Rivera is a sculptor and land artist. Over large swaths of land — on beaches, on piers, on Cross Campus — he stomps out designs in sand, grass, or snow which he later images with a drone. The pieces play with perspective in terms of space — he creates art on the ground that’s often meant to be experienced from above — and time — the works are inherently temporary but each step is permanent when it comes to the final piece.

Diego Miró-Rivera in his studio
(Photo by Anna Zhang)

I’ve been doing things like this since before I can remember,” he said. “But I kept getting the same questions about how I know where I am and how I see what I’m doing. And my answer was pretty lame. I didn’t know.”

To find a better answer, for himself as much as others, he double majored in art and cognitive science. For the latter, he studied humans’ spatial abilities in Yale’s Cognition and Development Lab, work that culminated in a thesis that shows the mind represents space in multiple ways simultaneously.

Being in New Haven has allowed Miró-Rivera to adapt his art practice to the urban environment, which is represented in his art senior thesis. For a year, Miró-Rivera collected thousands of cigarette butts left around the School of Art and for his piece, and then inserted them into cracks in a section of pavement between Crown Street and Chapel Street.

In each of his pieces, Miró-Rivera aims to represent the essence of the place itself. And while getting a drone and being able to see his own work from an aerial perspective was a milestone in his practice, he ultimately wishes people could see the work in person.

I’d prefer my art to exist as a very potent memory rather than an object or an image,” he said. “I hope in the future my work continues to become more about the site specificity of the viewer and having a genuine encounter.”

Thinking about the last four years, Miró-Rivera is grateful for the support of Trumbull College and the relationships he’s built on campus, including those forged in the undergraduate art studios at 341 Crown St. He and his classmates became a team there, he says, and together created the first undergraduate art gallery in their soon-to-be demolished building.

I’m a very community-driven person,” said Miró-Rivera. “This semester in particular has shown us the importance and healing power of art and music.”

Miró-Rivera will also continue to make site-specific art installations around the world. Future plans include apprenticing in a Zen garden in Japan, constructing a giant corn maze in Iowa, and creating sculptures inspired by an upcoming solar eclipse in central Texas.

I don’t want to be a reclusive artist,” he says. “I want to make community from art and make spaces and experiences that allow people to think about the complexity and richness in the world, and confront its more ridiculous aspects.”

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