Chancellor's Fellows: Jorge Rios Studio Tour

Meet the artist for a studio tour. Open to Chancellor's Fellows only.


My life has always been a product of ambiguity. I was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1988, a couple years before the Soviet Union collapsed. My childhood was marked by the disenchantment of the failed communist project (Cuba was an unofficial part of the Soviet bloc) and at the same time by the soring consumerism boom of the 90’s in the United States, just 90 miles away from Cuban shores. This early encounter with such a contradictory environment expanded my notion of identity beyond the limits of geographic constrictions; but more importantly, it made me a very skeptical and inquisitive human being. The lack of a solid historical narrative to relied in, was filled by intellectual curiosity, and made of culture and creativity the framework around which I erected my whole system of thought and values. From all the different set in influences the one that informed my work as an artist the most important one was the Latin American Magical Realism; specially the work of Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortazar, and the Cuban Alejo Carpentier, who developed the term of “Lo Real Maravilloso” (The Marvelous Real) to explain the fantastical quality of Latin American history and culture. This approach to metaphysics and wonder as an intrinsic quality of everyday life, and not a surreal ethereal phenomenon has defined the way I understand the relationship between art and life, and it permeates my whole practice as a painter.  

In 2013 I was invited by Washington University in St. Louis to give a talk about the experience of being a young artist in Cuba, this was my first encounter with the University and made a lasting impression on me since I felt a great connection with the art studios, workshops but specially the people, who received me with authentic Midwestern warmth and hospitality. By then, I already had a lot of family and friends in the US, so I decided to permanently reside here and settled in Miami, Florida. The geographical and cultural proximity to Cuba made of this environment an ideal space for a new beginning and it functioned as a smooth transition into my new life since the city felt closer to Latin America than to anything else. Six years afterwards I got admitted to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I arrived in January of 2019, right in the middle of a record-breaking polar vortex. This was my second emigration, this time within the same country but in contrast to Miami, a radical different culture, weather, and social dynamic. After finishing my bachelor’s in fine arts, I applied to Sam Fox School MFA program. I knew that I wanted to come back here at some point and a part of me felt in debt with the place and people who hosted me so kindly eight years ago. So here I am now, starting over again. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity. I guess I am a very lucky person. My plan is to turn this gratitude into action by giving back to this community hopefully as much I am receiving.


I still believe art, culture and beauty will save the world. Sometimes I miss the ocean.