Sophia Rivera wins art contest

Sophia says she was inspired by her grandma, her aunt, and Frida Kahlo

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  • Assemblyman James Skoufis, contest winner Sophia Rivera, mother Alicia Altamirano and aunt Narciza Barriga at school recognition ceremony. (Photo provided)

  • Sophia Rivera's winning artwork, featuring her favorite artist and inspiration, Frida Kahlo. (Photo provided)

  • A drawing by Sophia Rivera

  • Sophia Rivera finds inspiration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Photo provided)

  • Sophia Rivera finds a cool canvas. (Photo provided)

  • Artwork by Sophia Rivera.

  • Sophia River, 9, with NYS Assemblyman James Skoufis. (Photo provided)

By Ginny Privitar

— Chester Elementary student Sophia Rivera, 9, won the second annual Women’s History Art Contest for her painting of Frida Kahlo, beating out hundreds of other entries.

“She is a Latina like me, and she taught me that even if you’re having trouble you can do anything. When she was hurt she couldn’t walk, but she got right up back again.”
Sophia Rivera

Last January, Assemblyman James Skoufis invited students in grades K-5 in his district to create and share their artwork featuring the lives of inspirational women throughout American history.

On March 24, Skoufis presented the award to Sophia at Chester Elementary School. The painting will be featured on this year’s Women’s History Month brochure distributed by Skoufis. The original will be on display until next year in his office at 11 Main St. in Chester.

Skoufis congratulated all the talented participants and said, “Sophia has shown a lot of talent and surely has a bright future ahead of her.”

All in the family
According to Sophia’s mom, Alicia Altamirano, artistic skill runs in the family. Altamirano says she “draws a little,” but says Sophia’s aunt, Narciza Barriga, and grandmother Hilda Mestanza both draw really well and encourage her.

“My grandma and aunt inspire me," Sophia agreed. "One day me and my aunt were just painting with pastels. I was amazed at how fantastic she was. She taught me a lot of things."

Altamirano said Sophia has drawn since she was in preschool. She works in pencil, watercolor, oil, and pastel. When the family visits a museum, Sophia will often paint something there that takes her fancy.

Sophia described her technique.

“I usually use pencils for rough draft," she said. "I start adding very specific details and afterwards some paint and a marker to outline it.”

She likes abstract art.

"I really like Picasso," she said. "I like how he makes photos and rearranges them to make them unique."

Her favorite artist now is Frida Kahlo, the subject of her award-winning painting.

“She is a Latina like me, and she taught me that even if you’re having trouble you can do anything," she said. "When she was hurt she couldn’t walk, but she got right up back again.”

Kahlo suffered numerous severe injuries in a traffic accident that initially left her unable to walk and caused intermittent pain for the rest of her life. Undaunted, she devoted herself to art.

This talented nine-year-old hopes to continue as an artist when she grows up.

"When I die I want to be recognized for my art," she said.

You won’t have to wait so long, Sophia. Your talent is already wowing judges and audiences.

Sophia knows the secret to success: she practices her art every day according to her motto, based on Kahlo’s life: Keep trying, and never give up.

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