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Twin artists share a singular vision

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Good things have come in pairs to Illinois State University's 2018 Faculty Biennial exhibit, now on view in the University Galleries, through Feb. 11.

Among the faculty artists on display are the Twin Cities' only twin artist team, Veda and Meda Rives.

They may be perfect mirror images, impossible to distinguish.

But put their sensibilities together and you get singular, one-of-a-kind art ... like the Rives installation currently suspended with graceful lyricism over the University Galleries.

It's a handmade paper construction called "Inner Circles 2018," comprised of seven large and multi-hued circular shapes, which, upon closer inspection, reveal themselves to be composed of many individual hand-prints. 

Yes, Veda and Meda's handprints are among those comprising the circles.

And yes, they are so perfectly alike that the only way either can identify the other's is via differing color schemes.

"We both have had a natural interest in art since we were children," says Meda, whose married name is Meda Rives Smith and who serves on the board of advisers for ISU's renowned printmaking studio, Normal Editions Workshop.

"As twins, the first thing you learn is how to share and cooperate together," adds Veda, whose married name is Veda Rives Aukerman and who is Normal Editions Workshop's interim director.

Veda and Meda, who grew up in Virden, south of Springfield, became art majors together and veered toward printmaking, courtesy its inherent nature as necessary a team effort.

And a team they most definitely are ... right down to completing thoughts in tandem. "We really do finish each other's sentences," laughs Meda.

They became a part of B-N's art scene when they arrived at Illinois Wesleyan University, graduating in 1981, then heading to ISU for their respective M.A. degrees.

Meda and Veda agree that it's great to have your mirror image there, ready to bounce an idea off of.

"A lot of the process involves brainstorming," says Meda.

So it helps that their brainwaves are in perfect sync.

"You don't even have to say a whole sentence, meaning the communication is much quicker," adds Veda.

"A complete thought doesn't have to be verbalized because our natural brainwaves are going in the same direction. It can be a really rich experience to have this coming together of minds toward the same goal. We trust each other. And we've never been disappointed."

All of this synchronicity is in full flower via "Inner Circles."

The piece is part of an ongoing Rives sisters art concept they call "Book Environ," in which the work, typically large-scale, is meant to provide an immersive, enveloping experience, "like book pages that you can walk into."

"Inner Circles" is comprised of seven such "pages," published in the aforementioned shape of giant circles.

The circles are comprised of handprints that were taken at a special, celebratory dinner for "the closest of family and friends" ... hence, the work's eventual title.

"Hands are very distinctive," says Veda. "They have a really ancient kind of appeal. Some of the oldest art known are cave paintings featuring handprints."

At the same time, "they are also as modern as today's technology pass-codes." 

In addition to tracing their hands on their place mats, dinner guests were asked to pick an inspiring word and suggest a color to go with it.

Then it was off to the studio for Veda and Meda to work their mirror magic over the elements.

"We decided we should go big with really large scale," recalls Veda.

"We utilized the suggested words in random word poems, creating unique verses that we embedded with yarn in the handmade paper," with the poems' visibility dictated by the play of light through the translucent handmade paper (from abaca fiber, more commonly known as the stuff of teabags).

Though Veda and Meda Rives remain mirror images in perfect creative sync, there is one crucial step of the creative process that instantly separates them for the casual observer.

"Meda does most of the high ladder work. So it'll always be her up in the ceiling," confesses Veda. "I'm usually the one on the floor handing her things."

Could the two artists work apart and be happy?

Well, yes, they can, and they have upon occasion.

"We certainly each have our own skills and abilities," says Meda.

"But these are the jobs that we naturally gravitate to because we just enjoy making exciting work together."

("Inner Circles 2018" will remain on view in the University Galleries, through Feb. 11. For more information on Normal Editions Workshop, go to

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at 



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