The personal, even biographical, component was woven into the fabric of art from the moment the subject, harried by a series of crises and breaks, wanted to tell the world about his or her grief. The confession, which yielded such excellent results in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as some noteworthy earlier examples, has enabled art, which can sometimes be cold and impersonal in its formalist literalness, to show an intimate side, packed with revelations. In that field, while not being alone, women stand out in the seventies and eighties (Ana Mendieta, Mary Kelly, Annette Messager, to mention a few) when they take on the emotional load that has traditionally and conventionally been associated with the female and the need to declare themselves autonomous subjects. In painting Elena del Rivero has gone through a wide variety of stages, from landscapes and figures to her present work, which has been called neo-Conceptual (a rather vague term), by way of work in black paint done with thick brushstrokes, with which she conveyed notions with semantic undertones about the inner prison, enclosure, the cloister, the depths. In 1991 she settled in New York and from that vantage point she has woven a consistent discourse in which the concepts are not at odds with simple forms, repeated to the point of obsession. In 1993 she said: "All my work on paper is based on the passage of time, the minutes and the seconds. It is like joining time to a pictorial act. It is the time I am involved in making a piece. It is like a Penelope who weaves and unravels in an eternal wait for something that never comes. It is the process of time in which the work is always the same. That time is women's condition."
One of her best known works, 300 Letters to the Mother, is a wall an arrangement of a set of small drawings, typed texts, collages, objects, missives (some addressed to her), writings (some sewn or embroidered) in English and Spanish which bring together countless approaches to feelings, emotions, at times bordering on a kind of open confession which is not without a hard edge. So the figure of the mother is not a symbol of shelter, as the feminism of difference claims, but a place of conflict and sometimes a symptom of established power, of the "Law", to put it in (anti)Lacanian terms. But that was not all: years later she continued to delve into her ego and those of her close friends and relatives, turning the letter into a vehicle for conveying the personal: her Letter from the Bride (1997), where she appears with her identity changed, is proof enough of that.