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Updated: Sep 1, 2022

By Leah McFarlane

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to Hector Rivera (CFA ‘25), an 18-year-old self-made artist and streetwear brand owner. Under the stage name Bliss or All Black Aura, Rivera recounts what events led him to the level of success he is at now.

Photo taken by Leah McFarlane.

How long have you been in the art scene?

I’ve been “doing art” since I was a baby. It was just something I did. It started off with me vandalizing my small, little apartment building with crayon drawings all over the walls. My mother hated it. But it wasn’t until the quarantine that I finally had the epiphany that I wanted to really pursue art. I started to actually take it more seriously, engaging in communities that appreciated and uplifted me, rather than just being very complacent.

What would you say was the turning point, that one event, that led to you pursuing your passion?

It was really just a build-up. My whole life I was working towards STEM. I would constantly be telling myself, “Art is a hobby. Art is a hobby.” But then when quarantine happened, I was really just alone; alone with my own thoughts. Eventually, those thoughts escalated, and art was a way for me to express myself. I was undergoing this process of self-healing, and art helped me express myself in different ways. I was coming to terms with other things in my life, emotionally and mentally. It was a gradual set of events that made me want to pursue art.

Who would you call your inspiration?

Artist-wise, one particular artist that I do derive a lot of inspiration from is Basquiat, Jean Michel Basquiat. I’ve done so much research on how he approached art as a means of intense expression, especially as a Black man growing up in New York in the 80s.

I’m definitely more into aesthetics. Whether that’s goth, emo, or even punk fashion. In the rap world, obviously, everybody knows me for liking Playboy Carti. But I just really like his aesthetic and all his affiliates. Things that really give that dark energy. I really embrace that a lot.

What changes have you noticed after you started to take art more seriously?

Now that I actually made the decision to pursue art as a career, not just a hobby, I’m a visual arts major. I’ve definitely had a more positive outlook on my life, my mindset, and my talents, especially when it comes to recognizing and appreciating my talent. Comparing myself to others was a big problem of mine. When I finally made the decision, the collateral damage of how my family perceived me afterward made me feel a little rebellious. But that’s something that I incorporate into my art. Whatever I internalize in my life, whether it’s negative or positive, I show that through my art. So, it’s definitely not only been an emotional growth but a full, well-rounded growth.

Let’s talk about Nxghtmar3. How did you guys get started?

It was February, literally right before the quarantine happened. A couple of friends from my physics class and I didn’t really know what we wanted to do after school, and I had some ideas they didn’t really know about. We had a conversation, and the two of them said they wanted to start a brand. And of course, I wanted to hear about it. They said that they really thought we could do it.

Another kid who overheard started telling us that “you can’t really sell clothes and focus on school. You gotta be focused on one thing.” But that was just something I tossed aside. At this point, it was just an idea. Then quarantine hit, but I wouldn’t call this a stunt in our progress. It was a way for us to meditate and realize how we could manifest this idea into something real. During this time, I started to focus on my art more. We kept in touch, and a few months later, May-ish, I had a direction with what I wanted to do.

The original name was 4 Ghosts because there were 4 of us. We got a screen printer and started practicing how to make designs. We basically taught ourselves the whole manufacturing process. It was a really great learning experience. However, one of the original members wasn't really cooperating the way we needed them to. They weren’t showing up to meetings, providing any type of ideas, or putting any money down. We had to make the executive decision to kick him out.

After that, the 3 of us began spending more time with each other. One day, my friend was like, “I really like the name Nightmare.” Like I said before, I really like darker energy. I like embracing dark energy, so I wanted to add more motifs to the name. I changed the “I” to an “X” just to make it edgier. The “t” became a cross because I like to incorporate a lot of religious imagery in my art. Then, I added the 3 because it’s the original 3 of us. After that, we started building themes and throwing different designs around until we had something to show to the world. Two years later, we’re in a really good position, I would say.

What are your future plans for Nxghtmar3?

First, I would like to look back at where we started. I like the idea of pushing with this fashion. My two other friends are more streetwear, and I’m more fashion. Every piece that we make is an art piece in itself. I think of everything that I’ve made as its own drawing. I like approaching every graphic as its own little art piece, I imagine them being framed in an art museum. Everything has its own meaning, its own motifs, its own story. I didn’t even realize that I was building a story with our entire discography. Every piece has some type of connection with the others, which plays with my personal development as an artist and as a person. I plan on engaging with different terms. I wanna make Nxghtmar3 a community, not just a streetwear brand. I want to make it a brand in general, a community of artists and creatives. In terms of the fashion itself, I wanna deviate from the regular graphic. I wanna make actual pieces and create silhouettes. I can imagine myself doing something in high fashion when it gets to that point, something thought-provoking, and definitely creating a community of creatives, especially locally. In my community, a lot of creatives are reserved in terms of their expression due to not only the culture but the trajectory that many youths are aiming towards. I want this to be more than a logo on a t-shirt. It’s going to be a lot more than that.

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