A celebration of life

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LaVieGalerie art opening. Rios pictured here in September 2018.
LaVieGalerie art opening. Rios pictured here in September 2018.
Artist Vladimir Rios is opening a gallery in Livingston

Vladimir Rios is no stranger to the art world. Over the years he has worked on numerous creative, artistic projects, including visual narratives like Invisible and I Still Remember… together with photographer Lester Blum. Recently, Rios has decided to start his own art gallery — La Vie Galerie LLC, in Livingston, New Jersey — and, with it, an inclusive space where artists can express themselves through their creative work.

As a creative person himself, Rios has always felt the need to make art and share his art with others. “I enjoy seeing and hearing peoples’ reactions to the work I have created,” he says, further explaining his decision of opening a gallery. “I believed that a gallery would be the perfect venue to explore not only my, but [also other artists’] creativity.”

LaVieGalerie art opening preview photos in September 2018.
LaVieGalerie art opening preview photos in September 2018.

Coming up with the idea for an art gallery was one thing. Coming up with a name for his gallery is a story he’s eager to share.

Finding an appropriate name for the gallery was his first “struggle,” as Rios calls it. He was looking for “a name that was meaningful, empowering, and inspirational.” He also needed the name to have a “human essence,” in order to relate to people and their lives, and to offer them a welcoming feeling of inclusion.

His next “struggle” in coming up with a meaningful name for the gallery was that he wanted the name “to somehow pay tribute to the person who had the greatest influence on my life,” he explains, “my grandmother, Abuela Negra.” That’s how everybody would call her. That’s how Rios knew her… until one day, when he found a letter addressed to “Virginia.” He recalls that he asked his grandmother who “Virginia” was and was shocked to learn that “Virginia” was actually his grandmother. Yet, still, everybody knew her as “Negra.”

LaVieGalerie art opening preview photos in September 2018.
LaVieGalerie art opening preview in September 2018.

While still wanting to somehow include his grandmother’s name in the gallery name, Rios was also concerned that, especially nowadays, her name would have possible negative connotations, or be offensive to some people. And so, he kept looking for a name. He ended up posting a request on social media for suggestions. “I was surprised by the multiple responses, comments, and suggestions,” Rios says. They got him thinking. “Although I did not adopt any of the suggestions, I came to the realization that the name of the gallery could be one that honors the last conversation I had with my grandmother.

“Our [last] conversation was basically our good-bye. She told me that it was time for her to go and asked if I was okay with that, so she could go in peace. Of course, I told her that I would be fine and it was okay for her to go.  She told me that even though she didn’t have much in life, she was happy and, therefore, she had a good life. Because of this conversation, in honor of my grandmother, the gallery was named La Vie Galerie LLC — a celebration of life.

LaVieGalerie art opening preview photos in September 2018.
LaVieGalerie art opening preview photos in September 2018.

“The gallery logo pays homage to Abuela Negra.” He said the V and upside-down V in the logo represent the first letters of his and their first names — Vladimir and Virginia — and graphically they create an N for “Negra.” The letter N formed by the two Vs happened by accident, Rios comments, or maybe “it was meant to be.” The gardenia, his grandmother’s favorite flower, completes the gallery’s logo, a reminder that her presence will always be felt in particular in this art space. “I am sure Abuela Negra is happy with my choice,” Rios says.

La Vie Galerie LLC will open to the public on Friday, October 5. The opening exhibit is designed to present “an extensive variety of art forms and artists,” Rios says, mentioning that, through this gallery, he wants to offer people “an unexpected variety of art [and] something special to view each time they visit the gallery.”

With that in mind, for the opening exhibit Rios has compiled a diverse selection of work by 20 artists. Among others, the opening show will feature photography by Lester Blum (featured photographer), James Hanlon, Peter Robinson Jr., James Cuevas, and also Vladimir Rios, himself; paintings by Chi Fung Wong, Gail Postal, Francis Sisco, Paul J. Toussaint, Howard Steiman, Kathrina Miccio, and Michael Russnak; sculpture by Miyu Asakawa and Susan Freda as well as ceramics by Ellie Fisher; jewelry by Thorin & Co. and international jewelry designer, Isidro Sanchez; and couture costumes by Lance Rivera. In addition, international jazz singer Eliana Sacics will entertain the guests.

LaVieGalerie art opening preview photos in September 2018.
LaVieGalerie art opening preview photos in September 2018.

“I wanted the opening exhibit to encompass a wide variety of art from many of the talented artists I have met over [the years,]” Rios explains his choice of artists, both established, as well as up-and-coming artists, some of the recommended by friends or by other artists. He decided to include their work because, after all, “La Vie Galerie LLC is about inclusiveness, taking chances, offering the patrons a stimulating experience, and celebrating life.”

Rios had a specific work in mind by each of the selected artists, but, in the same time, he was open to work with each of them and consider whatever they wanted to present. “I chose artwork that represented a diversity of style [and that also] was complimentary to the [show,]” he says. “The [art] presentation in each room of the gallery reflects my desire to showcase each artist’s work in a complimentary manner.

“My goal for the opening exhibit is to establish a long-term relationship with both the artists and patrons of the gallery. I want each individual to have a new experience of an Art Gallery, and what constitutes art. Everyone should have the desire to return to La Vie Galerie LLC for additional visits to experience the gallery and view new work by a variety of artists.”

LaVieGalerie art opening preview photos in September 2018.
LaVieGalerie art opening preview photos in September 2018.

The opening exhibit will run through mid-November. Afterwards, La Vie Galerie LLC will be preparing for its second exhibit, scheduled to open on December 1, in honor of World AIDS Day. “That’s another celebration of life,” Rios said. “La Vie Galerie LLC will continue to exhibit work by new artists through the end of the year and into 2019. The World AIDS Day exhibit opening on December 1, 2018 includes a moving narrative created and directed by myself and photographed by Lester Blum, titled I Still Remember… [honoring] those who passed from complications of the HIV virus.”

Along with this World AIDS Day exhibit, La Vie Galerie LLC will also feature new work by various artists. The gallery is interested in work curated around specific themes, by artists who are passionate about their work and have a vision and a positive message.

To find out more about La Vie Galerie LLC, visit online at www.laviegalerie.com (website should go live in October) or follow on Instagram @LaVieGalerie.

The gallery opening reception will be on October 5, 2018 from 6-9 pm. For those from New York City, round trip transportation will be provided for the gallery opening. If interested in using this transportation, please contact LaViegalerie@gmail.com for details.

Alina Oswald is a writer, photographer and author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS. Contact her online at alinaoswald.com.