Riva Lehrer: Exquisite Radical

September 4 – October 15, 2016
Opening Reception: Sunday, September 4, 3 ‐ 6pm

Closing Reception & Artist Talk with Riva Lehrer and Anne Harris Saturday October 15, 2-5pm
Reading and Artist Talk begins at 3pm

Exhibition curated by Anne Harris
Full-color exhibition catalogue with an essay by Anne Harris available for purchase

The RAC is pleased to present Riva Lehrer’s solo exhibition Exquisite Radical. Riva Lehrer’s figurative paintings and drawings challenge conventional notions of beauty. She exquisitely depicts bodies we are told not to look at, certainly not to stare at—not to see. She does this through portraiture, which traditionally focuses on unique individuals deemed worthy of being “the stars of their own lives.” (1)

Riva Lehrer, "66 Degrees," 2016. 24 x 36”, acrylic on wood panel.

Riva Lehrer, “66 Degrees,” 2016. 24″ x 36”, acrylic on wood panel.

Born with spina bifida, Riva was told in art school that “bodies like yours are not acceptable subject matter for art.” (2) She has gone on to radicalize that which is labeled deformed, forcing us to see a new beauty through her anti-normal lens. With this, we’re given emotional intensity, insight, empathy, dignity and intelligence, all wrapped in fantastical narratives and the seductive luxury of rendered illusion. — Anne Harris

About the Artist

Riva Lehrer is a Chicago-based artist, writer and activist for the disabled. Her paintings and drawings have been exhibited at museums such as the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. She’s been the recipient of awards such as The Carol J. Gill Award for Disability Culture, The Wynn Newhouse Award for Artists of Excellence, and a 3Arts Residency Fellowship at the University of Illinois.

Riva’s writing grapples with topics ranging from beauty to feminism to disability culture, as exemplified in essays such as “Golem Girl Gets Lucky,” published in Sex and Disability. She has created and been the subject of documentary films such as The Paper Mirror, which follows her collaboration with the graphic novelist Alison Bechdel. Her TEDx talk, “Valuable Bodies,” outlines her evolution as an artist, and describes a primary challenge in her work—to replace pity with empathy, persuading the able-bodied to relate as protagonists to the disabled.

This exhibition is free and open to the public.
Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 1 ‐ 5pm.

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and sponsorship from the Riverside Township.

(1) Riva Lehrer, “Valuable Bodies,” TEDxGrandRapids, June 30, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjAzDqDRyK4

(2) Ibid.

Purchase Riva Lehrer Exhibition Catalogue

The Riverside Art Center’s “Riva Lehrer: Exquisite Radical” catalogue is available bundled with a copy of the 2004 catalogue “Riva Lehrer: Circle Stories,” or can be purchased individually. A limited number of “Exquisite Radical” catalogues signed by Riva Lehrer and Anne Harris are also available while supplies last – first come, first served.

Please click on the link below to read an essay by Anne Harris and to preview “Riva Lehrer: Exquisite Radical”.


Thank you for purchasing an exhibition catalogue! All proceeds from the purchase of this catalogue provide direct support to the Riverside Arts Center’s programs.

Order Riva Lehrer Catalogue