During one of the last weeks of staff artist Margo Rivera-Weiss’s life, we were comforted to be able to offer some bit of joy by roughing out an idea for what would become the cover of this issue. Margo (who uses nongendered pronouns) made the cover’s illustrations of a set of kitchen tools several years back to print as a set of postcards, but it seemed nice to pull them together into one place. We hope our readers appreciate this opportunity to admire Margo’s work on the cover once again, even when they are no longer here to enjoy the accolades.
Edible East Bay Staff Thoughts on Artist Margo Rivera-Weiss
Years ago when I was art and garden editor for Edible East Bay, I visited many open studio events to scout out artists who might like to contribute. On meeting Margo Rivera-Weiss, I felt an immediate connection. Their art was so exciting and positive. The next year they invited me to share space at an open studio. That was my first time showing and selling my watercolors, and I so appreciated Margo’s encouragement and help at that time.
Over all the years I knew Margo, I followed their amazing trajectory of growth. I admired their unique style and loved collaborating on graphic art projects from postcards to posters and Edible East Bay covers.
I appreciated and felt personal benefit from the enormous amount of loving community work Margo did by organizing First Friday shows and many classes and events at the Women’s Cancer Resource Center. They so openly shared the fruits of all the relationships they nurtured over the years.
Margo’s commitment to their art process and personal expression is what I most admired and what I continue to carry with me now that Margo is gone. By their example, I learned that to make the commitment is the important thing, and good things follow from that act of bravery and risk.
I met Margo back in 2008 when I was volunteering for WCRC. I was answering phones on the help line and often had questions about how best to respond to the calls. Margo was always kind and patient, both with me and with clients who came in with all sorts of needs and queries. Margo took the time to sit and listen to people’s concerns and then looked for ways to be of service, whether by researching a medication or referring someone to a support group. I always admired their compassion and ability to connect with anyone who came through the door.
It was also through Margo that I met Cheryl Koehler and started writing and then editing for Edible East Bay. I’d been admiring the covers Margo created for the magazine and confided that I’d long wanted to write for them. Margo immediately put me in touch with Cheryl, who accepted my pitch for an article about a cooking class happening at WCRC.
Over the past few years, it’s been a treat to collaborate with Margo and Cheryl on the mapping project for the magazine. Creating maps for food justice organizations, Asian noodles, East Bay chocolates, and more was a project perfectly suited to Margo’s creativity and stunning artwork. I’m thrilled that two of these maps will be part of an upcoming exhibit at the Oakland Museum.
I remember Margo as an unusually perceptive, thoughtful, and generous person. I also associate Margo with a funny moment during a mindfulness workshop at WCRC. During the session on mindful eating, we sat in a circle savoring one raisin each. I tried my best to ponder my raisin and chew it thoughtfully, but found it hard not to crack up with laughter. I’m pretty sure Margo did too.
When Helen Krayenhoff first showed me Margo’s painting of a cut apple for our Harvest 2008 issue cover, I was in a swoon over the vibrant sense of character that Margo gave to a simple piece of fruit. Margo’s love of and unique perspective on food was immediately apparent, but through the 12 years we collaborated on stories for Edible East Bay, I became more and more aware of Margo’s deep respect for the people who bring us our food. A taco truck or coffee cart was not so much a spot to chow down as it was a place to receive a gift directly from the hands of a food maker. Margo preferred to depict the server, the barista, or the cook working in the background, rather than the star chef, often catching the worker in a tranquil trance, similar to what an artist might experience.
In spring 2017, when Margo interviewed (and drew) East Bay activists Luz Calvo and Catrióna Rueda Esquibel about their new book, Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing, I felt that Edible East Bay was being given a new opportunity to join and help advance the conversation on food justice. I noticed my own awareness being pried open from a state I had not realized was as closed as it was (as is often the case with people raised in the embrace of the dominant culture). Then followed Margo’s maps on East Bay cooperatives and food justice organizations, plus one we were planning on Black-owned food businesses. The latter proved to be an unwieldy topic at a time when Margo was facing the effects of too many cancer therapies, but even discussing the map was valuable, and Margo stayed present in our collaborative process to the end.
Our last collaboration, the chocolate map for our Winter Holidays issue, allowed us to recall life’s sweetest moments, but it was a bit earlier, during work on our map of East Bay Asian noodles for our Fall Harvest 2019 issue, that I came to realize how far—and how gently—Margo’s broad food interests and connections had moved me off my Euro-centric moorings. Now missing Margo’s immediate presence, I can only thank them for all the gifts given through the years to our Edible East Bay community.
—Cheryl Angelina Koehler
Please visit The Last Bite for some remembrances of Margo from fellow artists. Also, please mark March 15 on your calendar for the celebration of Margo’s life and art at Uptown Body and Fender, where we will display Margo’s 12 years of Edible East Bay contributions.