River of Words is a public art work created by writer Israel Centeno is collaboration with visual artists Carolina Arnal and Gisela Romero. The project was commissioned by City of Asylum and installed on houses in Pittburgh’s Northside neighborhood.
The work, installed in 2014, was created in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh’s Office of Public Art. The artwork was selected during an open call, with a panel of Northside residents making the selection.
The artists—writer Israel Centeno and visual artists, Carolina Arnal and Gisela Romero—are all Venezuelan natives. The project was completed during a two week residency in July 2014. The words that form the artwork were selected by Northside residents to “host” on their homes during two Open Houses held in partnership with the Office of Public Art at the Sampsonia Way Tent.
Initially intended to be a temporary installation by the artists, the work became a permanent part of the fabric of the neighborhood when community participants requested to keep the words on their homes after the completion of the project.
About the Artists
Carolina Arnal is a Graphic Designer and Founder of ABV Design Workshop, who has worked in corporate imaging, design, and publishing, with particular emphasis on the cultural area. She has participated in exhibitions including the International Exhibition of Book Art, Leipzig; Graphic Design in Venezuela at the La Estancia Art Center; and the International Children’s Library in Bologna, among others. She has won national and international awards, such as the Diploma of Honor at the International Exhibition of Book Art, Leipzig, and several awards for her work as an editorial designer. Her work has been reviewed in publications such as Graphic Design in Venezuela, Graphis magazine, and Latin American Graphic Design by Julius Wiedemann and Felipe Taborda (Taschen, 2008). Arnal is co-founder of a group of independent pro-democracy creators, established to encourage citizen participation through visual and written ideas.
Gisela Romero is a visual artist who fuses images with words. Since 1999 she has developed a dialogue between her writings and images, giving her work a narrative dimension. Her artistic research is grounded in the territory of dualities, encompassing both rigorously-planned and chance encounters. Romero, who lives and works in Caracas and Playa Pintada, Boca Uchire, Venezuela, received her Masters of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute, New York and a BA in Fine Arts, with honors, from California College of Arts, Oakland. She also received a certificate in Graphic Design from the Institute of Design, Foundation Neumann, Caracas. Romero studied literature at the Central University of Venezuela, and participated in workshops in Graphics at Studio Camnitzer, Valdottavo, Italy, and in poetry and narrative at the Trasnocho ICREA and Cultural Center, Caracas, Venezuela.
Israel Centeno has published 14 books including novels, short stories, and poetry. He is regarded as one of the most important Venezuelan literary figures of the last 50 years. He has won numerous awards including Spain’s Federico Garcia Lorca Award and Venezuela’s National Council of Culture Award (1991). Through his narratives, he conveys a sense of the many shortcomings of a society that feeds on grandiose historical myths that lead to poverty and violence. His fiction also accommodates his experience of exile. His most outstanding work to date is found in the novels Calletania (Monte Ávila, 1992; Periférica 2010), Exilio en Bowery (Troya, 1998; Nuevo Espacio, New Jersey 2000), El Complot (Alfadil, 2002; Sampsonia Way, 2014), Bajo las hojas (Alfaguara, 2010), and Según pasan los años (Sudaqia, 2013). He has published two books of short stories: El rabo del Diablo y otros cuentos (Eclepsidra, 1993) and Criaturas de la noche (Alfaguara, 2000, 2011). Centeno was a City of Asylum Writer-in-Residence from 2010 to 2018. He currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife.