Afrocuban Afrofuturism Queer Art Gender Masculinity Machismo
Perhaps it is re-connecting to my history, the blending of the Spirit and physical world, Ritual and Transformation that will be the definitive description to the essence of my Art.
DO IT LIKE A MAN
For decades, the dominant cultural image of masculinity has included heterosexuality, physical strength, having many children, walking, talking and dressing like a “real” man and/or not crying or showing emotion. Questioning what is masculinity brings with it experiencing high degrees of explicit pressure, verbal and physical, to conform to various aspects of the traditional image of manhood in which there is always a constant need to negotiate masculine identity. Machismo attitudes often denigrate queer femme men for not subscribing to traditional norms of gender presentation even though many gay men are bolder and freer than “machistas” can even imagine. Oddly enough, far too many of us even in the queer community, femininity in men scares us. Drag is an art form that allows the artist to transform their face and body in ways that push gender norms and creative boundaries.
Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them.
Flor & Florecita, (detail) 2018, oil, transfers on paper, 24” x 6ft
Flor & Florecita, 2018, oil, transfers on paper, 24” x 6ft
DUlce, 2018, oil, transfers on paper, 24” x 6ft
Angel's Sugar, 2018, oil, crystal rhinestones, wallpaper, transfers on paper, 24” x 6ft
Call Me Papi, (detail)
Call Me Papi, 2017, oil, crystal rhinestones, wallpaper, transfers on paper, 24” x 6ft
Ice Pop, 2017, oil, crystal rhinestones, wallpaper, transfers on paper, 24” x 6ft
Ice Pop, (detail) 2017, oil, crystal rhinestones, wallpaper, transfers on paper, 24” x 6ft
Indigo is associated in many cultures with magical and spiritual rituals – probably because of the processes of change it goes through which looks dull green in a vat, emerging into the air- transformed to a vivid blue. Enslaved Africans carried the knowledge of indigo cultivation to the United States, and in the 1700s, the profits from indigo outpaced those of sugar and cotton.
Through simple forms and a straightforward presentation I strive to present the viewer with a color so rich that they are entranced by “burnings” and examine all that lies within a color’s substance. Powerful and dignified, indigo conveys integrity and deep sincerity.
Shaman 3, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, oil paint, 6 feet x 24” (DETAIL)
Shaman 3, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, oil paint, 6 feet x 24”
Shaman, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, oil paint, 6 feet x 24”
PEACE of My Mind, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, Indigo dyed fabric, oil paint, 6 feet x 24” (DETAIL)
PEACE of My Mind, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, Indigo dyed fabric, oil paint, 6 feet x 24”
Presence, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, oil paint, 6 feet x 24”
Cosmos, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, oil paint, 6 feet x 24" (DETAIL)
Cosmos, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, oil paint, 6 feet x 24"
Touch Has Memory, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, oil paint, 6 feet x 24”
Androgynous Divine Healer, 2016, burning on Arches oil paper, oil paint 16” x 12”
Emanationism is a cosmological theory which asserts that all things "flow" from an underlying principle or reality, usually called the Absolute or Godhead. Any teachings which involve emanation are usually in opposition to "creation out of nothing" as emanation advocates that everything has always existed and has not been "created" from nothing.
We ignorantly believe in the adequacy and assumption that what we don't see does not exist. If you create sharp divisions and cling to narrow definitions of subject and object, whatever you see will always appear in the context of those limitations.
Haiti & Dominican Republic: One Island Two Worlds, 2015, burning on paper, 24” x 36”
Merging Light, 2015, burning on paper, 22” x 30”.
Expansions, 2015, burning on paper, 6 feet x 24"
Oh Damballah, 2015, burning on paper, 6 feet x 24"
Stop Being Afraid, 2015, burning on paper, 6 feet x 24"
Closer, 2015, burning on paper, 6 feet x 24"
Sheer Energy, 2015, burning on paper, 6 feet x 24"
Black Magic Man, 2015, burning on paper, 6 feet x 24"
Fight Fire With Fire, 2015, burning on paper, 6 feet x 24"
Pulled from the Fire, 2015, burning on paper, 6 feet x 24"
Fire Branding Palomonte Santeria
Castro’s Burning Messages created through the use of branding, provide a body of work that pushes its limits by using minimal materials; work that enables a connection to history, a courageous confrontation of meaning and myth. In the branding drawings the prospect of magic symbols appear artistic as well as mystical- aesthetically compelling, multi-layered and encoded with meaning and beautiful symmetry. A brand is meant to claim ownership, to stigmatize, to punish or to signify the contents of a vessel and after being branded, the body is transformed physically to enter a new psychic space. But Castro uses branding to take on Magical meaning, a meaning of communication and transformation, where parallels are drawn between the material and the incorporeal.
The works in this series are branded with branding irons, bolts, chains, nails and various convoluted metal objects as to suggest a “primitive” magical transformation. Images strongly influenced by Castro’s knowledge of indigenous cultures and Afro-Cuban religions in which a belief in a Divine power and a direct connection to that Supreme force are used to divine answers to a specific question or to bring about desired events. Castro uses ideograms found in these belief systems, sacred symbols (signs), to serve as a catalyst for manifestations: ideograms to call down the spirit to motivate forces into action; a direct connection to nature itself by using the stars, moon, sun to communicate with celestial beings; graphic symbols that represent the identification of a series of supernatural phenomena.
Branding is an unpredictable process. Sometimes marks are made for the pure physical enjoyment of the activity - the feel of the heat from the branding iron, the smell of burning paper but the unpredictable results lead to unconventional and creative results simulating the natural spontaneity found in nature. It’s the discovery of what’s possible. Use of fire is at once a highly sacred element and the representation of Chango - the Fire deity. The metal is a manifestation of Ogun - the deity that presides over iron, weapons and metal work. Ogun needs Chango's Fire; Chango needs Ogun's forge and skills. Each has skills the other does not and they sustain one another. Simultaneously, “Fire” and every instance of fire and Metal become a manifestation of both deities. Consequently what is created is the accumulation of using symbols to create a “Sacred” space, the building up and layering of images in which the ritual of fire is a powerfully symbolic gesture.
All rights reserved.
Firewalker, 2015, burning on paper, 12" x 16”
El Jefe, 2015, burning on paper, 12" x 16"
Free At Last, 2015, burning on paper, 12" x 16"
Fan the Flames, 2015, burning on paper, 12" x 16"
Roots, 2015, burning on paper, 12" x 16"
Walk, Don't Run,- 2015, burning on paper, 12" x 16”
Witnesses Watching, 2015, burning on paper, 12" x 16”
Double Headed Fire, 2015, burning on paper, 12" x 16”
Bewitched, 2015, burning on paper, 12" x 16”
Endless Flight, 2015, burning on paper, 11" x 27”
Night Illusion, 2015, burning on paper, 11" x 27”
Generally, for many Spiritual traditions the crown of the human head is considered a sacred spot, because this is where we connect with the divine, a seat of power in the body, the seat of the orí, (guardian angel or higher self). Afrofuturism Yemaya depicts two images where the “head” is of primary importance regarding cultural symbolism and a visual messenger of POWER: the head wrap and the Afro.
The regal blue color of her head wrap, crowning the beautiful, black, ebony, velvet skin, symbolizes Yemaya’s wealth and status as La Reina del mar -the Queen who lives and rules over the seas. Covering the head generates a certain spiritual state of receptivity and centeredness. Her place as a queen makes her one of the most important Orishas of “la Corte Celestial” - Santeria's Celestial Court.
The collage side of this piece, a reverse silhouette of the painted Black Queen, manifests her donning an Afro. In the 1970's the Afro hairstyle emerged into mainstream culture, as a symbol of liberation, a statement in identity of self-love, identify to a genealogy of a race of people in substance, strength and courage; Black Beauty, Black Pride and Black Power; affirmation of Black African heritage, that "Black Is Beautiful," and a rejection of Eurocentric standards of beauty.
Afrofuturism Yemaya, 2015, DETAIL
Afrofuturism Yemaya, 2015, diptych, oil on wood panel, mixed media, 24" x 36"
Sublime Latino Masculinity
Illuminated Shadows encompasses oil paintings and mixed media works inspired by supernatural forces influenced by Afro-Cuban religions and spirituality, more specifically the Santeria religion, as well as culturally dominant fantasies about masculinity and sexuality. Over the years I’ve created images rooted in ethnicity and gender that have escaped the trappings of popularized constructions of Latino identity, be it through their androgynous looks or mystic creations; androgynous male figures, figures at once muscular and yet recognizably “feminine” in some of their poses and expressions.
The juxtaposition of the painted male figure to the dark Shadow plays a major factor not only in the composition and structure of the painting but also symbolically, there exists an interaction of the sacred and the secular. In the Shadow, I use ideograms found in indigenous religions as an inspiration for personal and spiritual transformation. The symbols are a Spiritualized drawing that connects the signatures of the entities and forces with symbols that represent a given change in the world that we want the spiritual force to accomplish. All rights reserved.
Three Sides of Chango 2011, triptych, oil on linen, mixed media, 36” x 36”
Oshun’s Reflection 2012, diptych, oil on linen, mixed media, 38” x 42”
Inle - Divine Healer 2013 diptych, oil on linen, mixed media, 36” x 48”
Flowers for the Dead 2012 diptych, oil on linen, mixed media, 32” x 36”
Eleggua’s Third Eye 2013 diptych, oil on linen, mixed media, 15” x 26”
St. Sebastian’s Sacred Heart 2013 diptych, oil on linen, mixed media, 38” x 44”
Ecstasy of St. Gerardo 2014, diptych, oil on linen, mixed media, 18” x 24”
Transformation of Candlemas 2014, diptych, oil on linen, mixed media, 38” x 44”
Touched by the SPIRIT
My approach to the studio and painting comes from an intuitive relationship that I develop with the people that surround me, along with my Spiritual beliefs, environment, memories and culture. All rights reserved..
Eleggua at the Cross Roads 2000, oil on canvas 24” x 20”
Divine 2007, triptych, oil on canvas, mixed media, 14" x 42"
Offerings at la ceiba 2001, oil on canvas, 12" x 14"
Gold for Ochun 2003, Acrylic, mixed media on paper, 50” x 22”
Eleggua meets Ganesh 2003, acrylic on paper, 54" x 18"
I Miss You / Te Extraño 2010, triptych, oil on canvas, mixed media, papel picado, 24” x 36”
Olokun Deep in Blue 2005, oil on canvas, 50" x 28"
Babalu-Aye Loves Ochun 2011, triptych, oil on linen, beaded fabric, mixed media, copper, 24” x 42”
Migration of the Spirit 2011, triptych, oil on canvas, beaded fabric, copper, 24” x 40”
Julia de Burgos-Raices 2012, diptych, oil on wood panel, beads and paper, 16” X 20”
Reflejando mis Raices 2012, diptych, oil on wood panel, beads and paper, 16” X 20”
Castro creates pieces that at times can masquerade as quilts and quilts that masquerade as paintings. But his work is not about blurring the boundaries between art and craft its about redefining contemporary painting without letting theoretical subject overwhelm or detract from the formal development of the materials. Fabric with beads is a universal and timeless tradition. All rights reserved.
Ochun Deep Within 2000, fabric, prayer card, embroidery, jingle bells cowrie shell, 9” x 8”
Chango Red Hot 2000, fabric, prayer card, sequins, jingle bell, cowrie shells, 9" x 8"
Santeria Power & Spirit
Afro-Cuban Santeria is a religious system known for its inherited richness, symbolism and rituals. A religion that is inclusive and not exclusive in its system of beliefs and practices. The powers and energies of these earth forces through the Orishas provide the inspiration and foundation for the Romancing the Gods series. Magic Realism & the Latin culture dictate not only his intense use of color, textures and feelings but he uses them to conjure up images about identity, rituals, spirituality and magic. All rights reserved.
Aché 1994, oil on paper, 60” x 44”
Honey for Ochun 1995, oil on paper, 60” x 44”
Chango ta Veni 1996, oil on paper, 44” x 60”
Yemaya’s Blessing 1995, oil on paper, 44” x 60”
Aqui Viene Babalu-Aye 1996, oil on paper, 7.5 ft x 5ft
Oya Trae el Viento 1996, oil on paper, 7.5 ft x 5ft