December 15, 1945, Ciego de Ávila, Cuba
April 1, 2020, Miami Beach, Florida
Ricardo Viera was an artist, curator and educator responsible for fostering talent and the advancement of the careers of many photographers. We celebrate his life and achievements by sharing his early artistic works and through the recollections of those who loved him dearly.
I met Ricardo Viera when I was Assistant Curator at El Museo del Barrio in 2002 where he had been invited to organize an exhibition on Latin American photography. I was excited about the exhibition and walked to galleries to check if he needed assistance but also to hear him speak with such gusto and knowledge about the images he was installing. When all was said and done—he invited me to co-curate an exhibition he had been thinking about for a long time and I immediately accepted!
In the fall of 2004 for a few months, I traveled every weekend to Lehigh University to meet with him and photographer Susan Bank where we all debated and argued about the selection of images to showcase in the upcoming exhibition he was planning—Viajeros which opened in 2005. At the conclusion of each day and because he was a great cook, he invited us to his lovely home near the university and enjoyed his gourmet feasts and heard him sing a few arias from his favorite operas or zarzuelas! Needless to say—the exhibition was remarkable and encompassing and I will forever be grateful for his generous spirit in asking me to be part of it. Our friendship continued over the years. I counted on his wisdom and good common sense; I can still hear his voice when I recall our conversations. He was one of the most accessible, kindest, wisest, and warmest people I have ever encountered and I can always say so much more about his bigger than life persona and how fortunate I was to call him a friend. He delighted in sharing his vast expertise and stories constantly with everyone.
Ricardo Viera joined Lehigh University in 1974 and became Director and Chief Curator of the Lehigh University Art Galleries and Professor of the Arts retiring in 2018 after numerous critically acclaimed exhibitions and programs. Ricardo also established a visual laboratory and teaching collection program, as well as a nationally recognized collection of Latino and Latin American works on paper, photography, and video—amassing a current collection of over 14,000 works in all.
Margarita J. Aguilar, Ph.D.M. J. Aguilar is an art historian, independent curator, and Latin American art specialist whose interests include colonial, modern and contemporary art of the Americas (US, Latin America and the Caribbean). She was part of El Museo del Barrio’s curatorial team since joining the New York institution in 1998 and was appointed curator in 2005.
Ricardo and I spoke at least twice during any given month for decades. Our conversation would range from dark room photography which is my world to digital which I called B.S., to politics and food. We agreed and disagreed on most topics except politics, here we were reading from the same book of TRUTH. He must be looking down with a smile saying, I knew Biden would send Trump packing. Oh boy, did he love to eat. That was his pleasure.
Ricardo was one of my dearest friends and deeply supportive. I once asked him if he was so supportive of my work because I was his friend. He said, “No I’m much harder on you because I love you.” His words, his thoughts, his humanity touched my heart, my life. My life is simply better because I had the privilege of knowing him.
I tend not to photograph those I love because the memories of the heart and soul are indelible. His hug, his warmth, his vitality for life cannot be photographed. He was a much deeper experience.
Ricardo was known for his beautiful voice. Theo Anderson shared this clip of Ricardo singing:
It is still difficult for me to comprehend that Ricardo is no longer with us. I last saw him at the end of February 2020; he came to hear my lecture on Rafael Soriano’s Cabezas at the Cuban Museum in Coral Way. We conversed at length before and after my talk, and I promised that when I returned to Miami we would spend an entire day together. Although he looked frail due to some recent surgeries, he was his usual energetic and enthusiastic self.
Then the pandemic hit, and in April I received an early morning email from mi hermana Hortensia Soriano telling me that Ricardo had died of a stroke the previous day. The next few hours were spent trying to find out what happened. Due to the avalanche of Covid 19, his family and friends have not had the opportunity to gather, remember him and mourn. These texts and recollections, so ably organized by Dr. Margarita Aguilar, and presented through Laura Blanco’s foundation website, is a modest attempt at a memorial.
Ricardo and I had nicknames for each other, based on a comment by sculptor Roberto Estopiñán: “que curadores ni curadores, ustedes lo que son es curanderos culturales.” It stuck; by seniority Ricardo was el curandero mayor and I, el curandero menor. We greeted each other with those names since we first met in the early 1990s.
In a professional relationship and friendship of almost thirty years, there are so many memories that it is difficult to focus on one or two, or three. But I will try . . .
In 1994 with Juan Martínez, Lynette Bosch, Inverna Lockpez, Ricardo and I were (at the request of then director Ileana Fuentes) part of the short-lived advisory board of the then third re-incarnation of The Cuban Museum. (It is important to recall that Ricardo had been the founding director of the museum in the 1970s, so the institution was very dear to his heart). In an intense weekend with Ileana and a handful of board members, we wrote all the governing documents for the institution, and Ricardo was essential in this process as he was truly a museologist extraordinaire, who knew the nuts and bolts of the ethical governance of a museum. All throughout this exhausting process, he kept his good humor and high energy, and insisted that we conduct the meetings in English: “Si hablamos en español, esto se deteriora rapido, y como Cubanos al fin, terminamos hablando mierda.” Our laughter was incontrollable, but he was right.
Beyond specific memories, what I will always remember about Ricardo was his openness and enthusiasm, his ability to think outside the rigid box of aesthetic and stylistic definitions, and his passionate advocacy for photography, in particular Latin American, Latino/a and Cuban-American photography. During his lengthy tenure at the Lehigh University Art Galleries, he built one of the most solid collections of photography, and also graphic work in general. Ricardo loved and exhibited folk art, architectural drawings, baseball paraphernalia, and he organized trail-blazing exhibitions of Adál Maldonado, Guido Llinás prints, the videos of Juan Sánchez and Gladys Triana, the photography of María Martínez Cañas, and a collection of small, more intimate drawings by Wifredo Lam, owned by his nephew in Cuba.
I was privileged to have collaborated with him on several exhibition projects over the years. These were always exciting and life-affirming experiences because of his joy in the work, even when there was extraordinarily little money to carry out the project!
Apart from his life-long vocation as a curandero mayor, teacher, and advocate of photography as art, he was a wonderful draftsman, printmaker and installation artist. In retirement he was looking forward to being in the studio and drawing and printing and installing. Many do not know that in the 1970s he was among the first Cuban American artists to execute earth art installations with the map of Cuba.
I recall a gathering of Ricardo, our dear friend Fr. Miguel Loredo and I. We were going to visit Juan Sánchez studio in Brooklyn. On the way there Ricardo brought up his many blessings: survive the Vietnam War, a privileged art education (Tufts, RISD), a job he loved, and most importantly his family: the pianist Marta Marchena and their daughters. I asked him: And exile? He responded: Yes, that too, it all started there, no? All blessings indeed.
Having known Ricardo, spent time with him, worked together, has been one of the many blessings of my life. Adios, mi querido curandero mayor.
Ricardo is a Prince. He passionately championed my Cuba works in the US and on the island. Ricardo was fed by infinite curiosity. Larger than Life, in the words of Tennessee Williams from Camino Real, “He had a heart as big as the head of a baby.”
Ricardo as I remember him from over the years was a warm and generous man who loved life and loved photography. Our paths would cross at a variety of photo events and he was always ready with a hearty hug and broad smile. He was a friend who supported and believed in me, my photography and was a champion for the work I did in Havana. He encouraged me every step of the way. Ricardo's passing has left an enormous hole in the photo world and life in general.
I first met Ricardo on my job interview at Lehigh University. He opened the gallery to me and showed me photographs by Martín Chambi that left me floored. Ricardo was a generous and enthusiastic collaborator and a genuinely kind man. His energy and excitement for the arts was contagious, and I miss him dearly as a colleague and a friend.
I can attest to the fact of the extraordinary human being that Ricardo was. I used to call him “mi hermano”. Even though, we didn’t have any familiar blood relationship. We were both brothers, in spirit, by elected blood.
We would constantly stay communicated through emails. Reminding each other, about the extraordinary cultural contributions of Africa, in the Caribbean. The surreal magical realism of the tropics. As noted poet Lola Rodriguez de Tío would say: “Cuba y Puerto Rico son, de un pájaro las dos alas.”
I first met Ricardo, in 1996 at one of Latin American Colloquiums, held in Mexico City. At that time, I was exhibiting my Gagá & Vudú Cibachrome color photographs. He rapidly agreed to show them, a year later, at Lehigh University Art Galleries.
He also accepted the task of being the curator for my three-decade retrospective, El Ojo de la Memoria / The Eye of Memory, held at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, in 2004, and at LUAG. He was a tireless advocate of Latin American photography and a fervent promoter of my artistic work.
He, and Martica (as I would call her “La Diva del Pianissimo”), travelled to Puerto Rico several times.
Ricardo will always live in mi corazón y recuerdos. He left a positive mark in my life.
I have known Ricardo for many years. He was a dear colleague, brother and friend. Ricardo was instrumental in organizing an exhibition of drawings at Lehigh University in 2017 by Cuba’s most international artist Wifredo Lam, who was my grand-uncle. Ricardo had begun working on this collaboration since 1997.
I can't remember exactly when I first met Ricardo. I moved to Philadelphia in 1996 to accept a position as an assistant professor at the University of the Arts. I'd been a member of SPE since the 1980s, but never interested in the who's who and politics of the organization. After my father's death in 1995, I had applied for a series of positions listed in the College Art Association bulletin, enough positions that I had almost forgotten which schools I'd applied to. Accordingly it was a surprise when a woman I'd never heard of, Alida Fish, asked to meet me at the SPE (Society for Photographic Education) conference held in Los Angeles that year to discuss the University of the Arts job.
After our meeting, and a subsequent visit to Philadelphia, I accepted the position, which paid a salary of $35,500. I moved across the country with my wife and son, not knowing a soul, and made a few friends, almost all of them through the university. I was given this high-profile job as department chairman, but I knew at the core of it, many of the people I thought were friends, weren't really friends. They were colleagues and work acquaintances. Sometime that first month, I attended a Ray Metzker opening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and despite Alida's assurances that Ray would never set foot on the University of the Arts campus again due to bad blood, I managed to get him to make a return visit to the department. Eventually, he joined me and Seymour Mednick on a retrospective of Sol Mednick’s work, with Ricardo's advice as it turned out. Anyway, it was that evening at the P.M.A. that I first met Ricardo, an ebullient man with a rich voice and a sparkle in his eye. It sounds clichéd, I know, but it was true. I was hooked. Importantly, he provided me a sounding board, outside the petty politics of the university, and gently, with humor, talked me down when I was most upset.
Having grown up in California, home to a great diversity of cuisine, I asked Ricardo if there was any good Mexican food to be found in Philly, aside from Taco Bell, or TGIFs. A hearty roar and a laugh emerged from him, and he, in his sly conspiratorial fashion, sort of winked at me, and whispered something. Not only did I like him, but I instinctually felt I could trust him. A “bromance,” maybe! I continued to see Ricardo at receptions through the years, and met his wonderful wife Martha who, like him, was warm and gracious and clearly in love with Ricardo as much as he with her. My wife Nancy, who speaks Spanish, was quick to feel the same way about Ricardo as I did. I spent time with him during portfolio-reviewing sessions at FotoFest in Houston and Photolucida in Portland, but, it wasn't until the Oracle conferences for curators that I began to spend significant time with him. Ricardo was scary smart, but I never saw him lord it over anyone, or be condescending. Above all, he was a natural teacher who sincerely loved teaching and educating others. Not in a studied, academic way, but with passion and joy, and there wasn't a trace of insecurity, and thus no sense of competition. He was a storyteller, a raconteur. No matter where we were — Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Pennsylvania — Ricardo's presence was a highlight for everyone.
In a rathskeller in Austria, Ricardo was singing opera, to everyone's delight. I think it's fair to say that none of us cared where he sang – as long as he sang. Just to hear him drew us all together. And then there was that terrible car accident. We didn't know the details of what had happened, but that it was very serious. Slowly, somehow, Ricardo and Martha fought their injuries, and survived, and when Santa Bannon offered her gallery as a tribute to curators, Ricardo and Martha were so proud, and it was wonderful — the art, the friendship, and the respect we all had for one another. There were other friends who were closer to Ricardo, may have known him longer, but it wasn't a contest. We were also doubly aware of how close we came to losing him.
I was just so grateful for the times we had together, and regret that there wasn't more. When I left University of the Arts, with all the petty nastiness of that separation, Ricardo supported me without question. He lifted me up when others couldn't. He'd seen it before, and knew how heartbroken I was, but he helped me see past the immediate pain, important because he knew many of the principals involved. As much as he was hurting, dealing with past injuries and disease, even when he retired, and moved to Florida, he was always there, checking on me, lending me support. The one regret we both had was that he was interested in adding my own work to the collection he built up over the years, but unfortunately, I never made time to follow up on his offer. By the time I was ready, it was too late, and Lehigh University had moved on from Ricardo's vision.
I began this tribute with the story of how we ended up in Philadelphia not just for storytelling purposes but to make the point that the feeling I had about Ricardo from our first meeting was correct. Best of all, whenever we would see him, we would feel welcomed. Now, years later, I know how much he would have loved to have seen Trump out of office, and to play with his grandchildren. I'm not sure how we measure the impact of a life, the weight of that experience, but Ricardo always struck me as one of those rare people who are real, sincere, and do their best to spread joy and love to those with whom they engage. Others will write with more elegance and insight about his aesthetics, curatorial vision, and exhibition goals than I am able to, but I honestly feel that all who met him were all the better for that. That's how I'll remember him, with that sly look, full of joy. Thank you, Ricardo and Martha, for the gift of friendship. And for how much fun it was to be with him.
In these exceedingly strange times when death stalks us all, I have been sadly forced to ponder – with tears and so many cherished memories – the very recent, and completely unexpected, death of my best friend, Ricardo Viera. But there is so much more to consider. So let me name only some of the ways. It goes like this for me – yes I’m talking about my very best friend, and also my old colleague-in-arms at Lehigh, “partner in aesthetic crime,” fellow explorer of the mysteries of outsider art, nationally and internationally recognized artist-photographer extraordinaire, university museum innovator, wickedly good cook of authentic Cuban rice and beans, mischievous artistic trickster and bon vivant known for his rakish floppy scarves worn as only a Latino man can, periodic baritone-basso-profundo operatic performer, guerilla street theater pioneer in Bethlehem, fabulous authority on all things artistic in Latin America, generous arts supporter throughout the Lehigh Valley and beyond, a great practitioner of bear-like hugs and twined facial kisses, and a uniquely creative teacher-educator-promoter of visual literacy. And the inventory goes on.
The Eat Art Collective is dedicated to Jean Dubuffet’s tasty proposition that “the need for art is as basic as the need for bread, perhaps even more so. Without bread, one dies of hunger. But without art, one dies of boredom.” The Eat Art Collective is amoeba-like in its ability to digestively absorb all who affirm the darkly surreal aesthetics of Spam and Twinkies. We invite all to join and eat.
Let me add just two other salient distinctions to this powerful litany – a recitation that clearly calls for accompaniment in Gregorian chant. I speak of the simple but compelling fact that Ricardo was a singular and respectful disciple of both the stigmatic Padre Pio of Pietrelcina and the syncretistic saints of Santeria. Lastly (but only in the truncated sense of this partial listing), he and I shared the dubious notoriety of being co-founders of the infamous installation partnership known affectionately as the Eat Art Collective. Both of these activities were collaborative adventures that dramatized why a professor of religion and a professor of art should adopt a slightly-silly-but-exhilarating naming convention for each other. This became a shared tradition which was prompted by our first encounter with the famous Baptist preacher-artist-visionary and “Stranger from Another World” Howard Finster. It was Howard who in 1986 started to refer to Ricardo with the creatively mangled name of “Lecordo.” In turn, I became the faux-Latin Normando. For several years, Howard was convinced that we both taught at “Lee High” by which he meant General Lee High School. Shortly after this, Lecordo and Normando for the first time collaborated on an extremely funky Finster family exhibition at Lehigh. And it was onward from there – a series of exhibitions that some imaginatively impaired colleagues at Lehigh preferred to ignore.
I mentioned the previous seemingly odd activities for their special significance at this time of deep grief which can spontaneously give rise to moments of remembered joy, or even the balm of shared silly memories. I refer to the very last time this past January when I visited, in my brotherly guise as Normando, the incarnate Locordo in Miami. He was wearing one of our old Eat Art T-shirts which proudly displayed the immortal slogan of our peculiar artistic collaborative often remembered for its humorous, yet sometimes tasteless and rather disturbing, installation artworks. I refer to the urban legend that the slogan was ritually celebrated by the porta-potty custodians at the yearly and wildly salacious Burning Man festivals in the Nevada desert. All of these commode custodians wore T-shirts, at least for several years, emblazoned with the hygienic words, “Just Don’t Lick Your Fingers!.” And somehow there is something cosmically appropriate and prescient at this time of Ricardo’s death and the dictates of bodily sanitation put forward during the current viral apocalypse.
There is another very poignant memory I have of Ricardo in Miami. This refers to our several days of touring the many art museums and private art collection galleries in Miami which has become a very hot national and international center for the global art world (see above the image of Ricardo in his EatArt T-shirt at the Perez Miami Museum of Art). I have many positive memories of our art world adventures, but let me conclude these very preliminary reflections by describing something that was very moving at a time when Ricardo was still recovering from various operations and health issues. He mentioned that we should visit the Fort Lauderdale NSU Museum of Art, about 25 minutes north of Miami proper. The museum at that time had, among a number of other outstanding exhibitions, a unique show titled “I Paint My Reality: Surrealism in Latin America.” You can take a virtual tour of this impressive exhibition at this link.
This was a superbly curated exhibition that included many of the great, but often under-appreciated, South American surrealist artists of the past century. What made this show so outstanding was that it included numerous world-renown artists like Wifredo Lam, Frida Kahlo, Roberto Matta, as well as many other important early Latin American surrealists. Equally fascinating was that the exhibition also included a number of living artists operating both in their native countries and in the US. These included such celebrated figures as José Bedia, Julio Larraz, and Ana Mendieta. Moreover as Ricardo was proud to tell me as we toured the gallery with the curator, the show included one of his own quasi-surrealistic early paintings from his “Cuban island series.” Unfortunately the hasty smartphone photo I took of Ricardo standing by his work with the curator-director Bonnie Clearwater is not very good (see below). Ricardo is seen with an atypically lopsided scarf and looks a little shocked and exhausted. The photo is admittedly poor but It was also a picture taken at the end of a very long day of touring museums and collections all over Miami. Let me assure you that the photo does not at all capture the fact that for the rest of the day Ricardo radiated a special pride about that painting and how it reminded him of his early days as an active Cuban American artist. Dare I say (no matter how hyperbolic) that there was even a certain beatific calm that came over him. I think Padre Pio was there with him again. Surrealistic indeed!
Ricardo seemed to recover some of his old positive attitude and creative energy for the rest of the time I was with him. The next few days we both talked excitedly about activating the Eat Art Collective again – even putting together a new gallery installation (in Miami or the Lehigh Valley perhaps?). We rather foolishly joked about how we had anticipated Maurizio Cattelan’s recent artistic stunt at the Miami Art Basel where a duct-taped-banana artwork worth more than $120k was actually eaten. As you might imagine the old mischievous gleam reappeared in Ricardo’s eyes. He was again my partner in crime, Locordo. And I was Normando again. Regrettably, an Eat Art Collective show is not to be. But I truly believe that the powerful spirit projected from Ricardo’s fiery eyes still shines within the aesthetic ether (see below). And now I’m starting to cry again.
I could go on, but enough for now amidst the mingled tears and the joyful memories of this amazing man. More will be said in due course. But as I write these words, the death toll precipitously continues to mount and the temptation is to succumb to fear and desperation. Let us not do so and let us think of Ricardo, my brother, my Lecordo, who lived a life that shows us the great and good and positive and creative – and most of all life-affirming – truth that an impending joy glows within the darkness. Let us think of Ricardo and have hope. The sainted Padre Pio would, I think, ecstatically approve of such an affirmation. And I know that Lecordo would agree.
Ricardo was incredibly helpful to me with my Santería project as well as with my successful documentary film about the embargo, Curtain of Water (Telón de agua). I often sought his opinions on my Cuba work. He was always very generous with his knowledge and suggestions. In addition, I used to bring my photography students from the community college where I teach to the LUAG Galleries, and Ricardo would happily spend his valuable time with us explaining and answering questions. He will certainly be missed.
It is still difficult for me to imagine a world without Ricardo Viera. He was a powerhouse of a man and most always, the life of the party. His passions were great and ran deep. He loved his family, his friends, food, music and art and the world was a better place because of him. My life was vastly impacted by his mentorship, support, kindness and friendship. His physical presence is so missed but his spirit will live long in all our hearts as Ricardo’s gift is that he made us ALL feel special.
Conocí a Ricardo en 1992 durante Fotofest en Houston. Al minuto de tratar de hacerme entender en ingles el me preguntó: "de donde tú eres", cuando le dije que cubano pero vivía en México, me dio un abrazo. En adelante siguió la conversación en español y también al instante surgió una entrañable amistad.
Celebró mucho mi trabajo y me ofreció hacer una exposición en la galería de la Universidad de Bethlehem. Con la propuesta de la exposición vine con mi familia en 1992 a los Estados Unidos y desde entonces vivo exiliado en Miami. A los pocos días de llegar, vino Ricardo a visitarnos y mi hijo que tenía cuatro años al verlo me dijo, "¿él es el que nos trajo a este planeta?"
Siempre lo recordaré por su apoyo, su amistad, su bondad y al igual que mi hijo, por habernos traído a este planeta.
I met Ricardo in 1992 during Fotofest in Houston. Just at the moment when I was trying to speak to him in English, he asked me where I was from. When I told him I was Cuban but living in Mexico, he hugged me. From that moment on, we continued our conversation in English but also, at the same time, we forged a close relationship.
He complimented my work greatly and offered to organize an exhibition in the art galleries at Lehigh University. With the exhibition offer, I came to the United States with my family in 1992 where I continue to live in Miami. Just a few days after my arrival, Ricardo came to visit and my four-year old son, upon seeing him asked: “Is this the man who brought us to this planet?”
I will always remember his support, friendship, kindness, and like my son, “for bringing us to this planet.”
There were many times we met and talked at length about photography in NY in the mid- seventies when I ran Foto Gallery in Soho. The memories are still vibrant and exciting as we talked beyond what was photographic expression at the moment. These ideas have stayed with me all this time and there have been many times I've returned to them for inspiration. He was and continues to be a great inspiration.
I will be forever grateful for your presence in my life, for the support you gave me through the years, for the songs you sang to me. I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today in my career without the unconditional support you gave me — among many other artists. You were our greatest supporter, gentle and kind.
Thank you, my dearest — not enough words are capable to say how much you mean to me.
I have known Ricardo for something like 25 years. Ever ebullient, always ready to have a serious conversation, always ready with sensitive advice and wise counsel. Always, (at least after one glass of wine) in good voice.…
Here is Ricardo in Goa, India…Sending his sweet smile down through the decades. We all miss him.
I was one of Ricardo’s best friends.
Of course, if you knew Ricardo, you were also one of his best friends. With his enthusiasm and endearments, that’s the way he made everyone feel when he saw them.
His passion for people was matched by his passion for art, for photography, for ideas, for exhibitions, for publications.
As an artist, a teacher, a curator, and an administrator, he created a world of wonder. The collection he built and shepherded at Lehigh is world class.
Ricardo was an original, a dynamo, a whirlwind of creativity.
He will certainly live in my heart forever.
Ricardo Viera was a wonderfully generous human being. When I think of him, I see his smiling face. He was generous to a fault. Ricardo included my work in several exhibits, he bought my work, he wrote recommendations, helped make my return trip to Cuba more than I could have imagined. I once spent a day with him in Bethlehem. He picked me up and showed me around the different galleries, the museum, gave me several catalogs of the wonderful shows he curated, looked at my work. His positive energy continues to nourish me and my work. I am grateful to have known him.
I never knew Ricardo well but you didn't have to, to appreciate his wonderful verve and feel instantly a member of his clan, his expansive group of friends. How could we not miss such a wonderful, thoughtful, funny and caring person!
Para mí es un gran placer poder contribuir a un homenaje a Ricardo. Tengo muchísimas imágenes porque tuve la gran oportunidad de asistirlo en Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Camagüey, Santa Clara y La Habana cuando dio el segundo taller de preparación de portafolios. También hay fotos de la revisión de portafolios en la Fototeca de Cuba.
Lisette Ríos LozanoFormer Director of Fototeca, Cuba
I remember a time I think it was in 2004, when Ricardo and I were talking together in a gallery in Houston, during FotoFest. I didn’t know Ricardo very well then, but a couple of days earlier he had done me the honor of purchasing several works from my Arena series for the Lehigh University collection. He was the first person to buy this work and, obviously, I was thrilled. There were several things I remember about this time. First, he didn’t haggle about money; he just asked that I give him “a good price” (I did) and left it at that. Second, he sent payment to me almost immediately, which artists will recognize as not being common practice. Third, that day in the gallery, he took me aside and very quietly said to me, “I hope you know your work is very good.” In a way, that simple, quiet statement was unnecessary; after all, he had committed to buying my pictures. But perhaps Ricardo sensed my insecurities and doubts, perhaps he wanted to reaffirm the connection; perhaps by making this single, almost solemn, statement he was just being the thoughtful, kind, and generous person he never stopped being — a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. We became friends after that, communicating mostly by email, particularly after his accident. I remember his kindness, his vivacity, as well as his formidable but never arrogant intelligence. And, always, for years after, particularly when my doubts and demons would surface, I would think of Ricardo's words and the gentle grace that came with them, and the world would seem like a better place.
This picture was taken as Ricardo was clearing out his office. It is the last picture I made of Ricardo. Our conversation was full of talk about art and his future retirement plans. There was no sense or thought that only the future was before us. This is how I wish to remember my friend and colleague. Ricardo had big plans and was a life force. I think of him often and I can still hear his voice.
To give a gift in memory of Ricardo Viera at Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG), please click on this link.
Gifts will support photographers and Latin American artists.