Lydia Rubio is part of a fresh wave of visual artists taking inspiration from the Hudson River — and contending with threats to it, including pollution and climate change, in her work.
The Cuban-born Rubio moved to the small city of Hudson, N.Y., within the past three years — but she was drawing on the Hudson River School paintings as far back as 1999, even from an ocean away. Back then she focused a vision of the river as magical.
The “paintings were a reference [point for] mythical illuminated landscape oils I did on Viñales, a valley in Cuba,” Rubio says. When she found herself seeking fresh creative input, she thought again of those influences. “Hudson, where Cole and Church had worked, was recommended by friends,” she says. “The wide Hudson River was the presence of water I needed, as I have mostly lived in places surrounded by water.”
Rubio brought a notable artistic CV when she migrated north. The American and Latinx artist’s work has been exhibited in nearly 30 solo and 50 group shows across art venues like the Bronx Museum of Arts, the Museum of Latin American Art Long Beach and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Over her 35-year career, a constant in Rubio’s work has been nature, which features heavily in her sculpture, painting, travel journals and more.
Visually, she still expresses the Hudson as almost mystical — while conveying, in works with titles like “Impermanent” and “Irreplaceable,” that pollution like PCBs and microplastics have degraded its water quality.
Most recently, Rubio participated in the Hudson Art Fair with a collection called ‘Letters To Hudson: 7 Letters for 7 Birds.’ The mail art series feels somehow both vintage and modern, ephemeral and lasting. And amid the social distancing of a pandemic, it speaks to our return to an old-fashioned means of connection — postal mail — that many of us are now appreciating anew.
We spoke to Rubio about her decision to settle in the Hudson Valley, her perspective as a female and Latinx artist and the stories behind some of her favorite work.