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It isn’t every day one gets to meet an artist who’s been
praised by none other than the great H.R. Giger himself, let alone one whose
paintings are done in his own blood. The first American to have his work
displayed in the H.R. Giger Museum in Switzerland, Vincent Castiglia, is a
painter/tattoo artist who’s done everything from film posters (SAVAGE COUNTY)
and album covers (Triptykon) to inking members of such hardcore acts as
Agnostic Front and Dying Fetus. FANGORIA caught up with Castiglia in his
(appropriately enough) Hell’s Kitchen studio.
FANGORIA: When did you first get bitten by the art bug?
VINCENT CASTIGLIA: At birth, I think. You know, it was
always something I did just really naturally—drawing in pencil or pen or
whatever I could get my hands on from as early of an age as I can remember.
FANG: H.R. Giger’s obviously a fan of yours, as well as an
influence. How long have you two known each other and how has he influenced
CASTIGLIA: Well, Giger was, is an icon. He’s kind of my art
hero. I grew up looking at his artwork and buying his books and [having]
posters on my walls. We met in 2005. I was invited to an exhibition of his in
Switzerland, and that’s where he had seen my work for the first time. That’s
where the connection was made. I participated in a group exhibition at the H.R.
Giger Museum in 2006, and plans for a solo show were made shortly after that
for 2008. Giger invited me to have a solo show at the museum.
FANG: You were the first American artist to be invited to do
CASTIGLIA: Yes. That’s correct.
FANG: Was it pretty cool? Did a bunch of people turn out?
CASTIGLIA: The turnout was huge. It was during the winter,
it just had snowed so there was all this snow on the ground and it’s up in the
mountains. The museum’s in a castle three hours outside of Zurich, just about.
It’s the Chateau St. Germain. The turnout was huge, there was barely standing
room, barely breathing room, and I was really blown away.
FANG: So how much of an influence would you say horror films
or the horror genre in general are on your work?
CASTIGLIA: I would say, in terms of an influence… I don’t
know if I could even answer that. I mean, I’ve been watching horror films all
my life, and have been sort of inclined to see things from a more horrific
vantage point. But like I said, that’s something that goes on more naturally. I
don’t know how much film has influenced what I do more as what I do, or how I
see things draws me to horror films.
FANG: What are some of your favorite horror movies?
CASTIGLIA: THE EXORCIST 1 and III. FRANKENHOOKER...
FANG: Have you ever done a FRANKENHOOKER tattoo?
CASTIGLIA: [Laughs] No.
FANG: That’d be rad.
CASTIGLIA: Well, you’d be the first. Let’s see, what else?
I don’t know if it’d be considered horror, but it straddles the line—BRAM
STOKER’S DRACULA, which is the big one for me. I really love that movie.
FANG: Your paintings are all created in human blood. How
long have you been using blood for your art, and what’s your process for
CASTIGLIA: I’ve been working in human blood for about 10-11
years. It started experimentally, where I was using less of it, on a smaller
scale, and it evolved. I really fell in love with the medium because it… There
was a connection made that I didn’t feel with any other media. The work is
intrinsically a part of me, and what I was painting, the content of the imagery
and the substance that I’m working with, there was this perfect circle that
completed. So I just really fell in love with it, and as the requirement for
more of it increased, my process for extracting it had to evolve also. It went
from using diabetic lances... In the beginning, that was experimentally to
intravenously collecting [blood] into vacutainers.
FANG: Was the first time you did it kind of freaky?
CASTIGLIA: No. [Laughs] It was just kind of whatever, man.
Like I said, it’s a really for, lack of a better word, a sacred process for me,
and I think that where, every once in awhile, it may be misunderstood, because
some people might disregard the use of blood or non-conventional media as
sensationalist. I hear it every once in awhile, and it’s just so the opposite.
It’s like, some people go to church and pray, and this is the way I commune
with what I believe to be my connection to this place, to this world.
FANG: Are people’s reactions to your work all across the
CASTIGLIA: For the most part, probably 90-95 percent of the
time, the reactions are just amazement really. In terms of how delicately such
a substance could be used and how realistically a painting can be created, how
developed it can be, and that people are almost in disbelief a lot of the time
because this is a substance that you associate with pain and trauma and
splashes and clotting and everything that is the polar opposite of what I’ve
done with it here, which is very controlled.
FANG: What do you think of other artists that use bodily
fluids in their work, such as Andres Serrano, who did the cover of Metallica’s
CASTIGLIA: Yeah, I wasn’t big on the album particularly,
but I vaguely know what you’re referring to. I think it’s cool, I mean I
couldn’t comment on it because I don’t know the artist personally, I don’t know
his background. But it’s cool. The use of non-conventional media is perfectly
valid. It really just has to do with the sincerity of the process for me. I
mean, if it’s sincere and what you’re doing is coming from a real place, then I
think it’s cool.
FANG: You painted the poster for 2010’s horror movie SAVAGE
COUNTY. How did your approach to that differ from your standard painting
process, and is poster and/or album art something you’d like to pursue in the
CASTIGLIA: I was contacted by Matthew Manos—he’s a designer
who works with David Harris, the director of the film—and we all collaborated
on what the image was going to be. I was provided photo reference from shoots
that they did with the actors in the movie, and together we worked up a
composition that was mutually agreeable for [everyone’s] needs, and that was
going to look cool. And really, that’s how the image was painted.
FANG: As a tattoo artist, is it annoying having fans
requesting a straight duplicate of iconic movie imagery such as Freddy Krueger
or Leatherface rather than allowing you to come up with your own take on the
subject? Is it ever like, “Oh, here we go, another stupid zombie tattoo?”
CASTIGLIA: Not at all. Not at all. I appreciate doing
reproductions of iconic subject matter. A lot of the time, especially if it’s
an iconic image of like a painting or something I’m reproducing, and I’m
veering off but I’d rather execute it as is and maintain the integrity of the
image rather than alter it in a way; unless you’re doing something completely
different, then it would be zombie-eque or Freddy-esque, but it wouldn’t be
“Freddy” or so forth. But I do like working straightforward off the image.
FANG: What’s the strangest and/or lamest request for a
tattoo you’ve ever gotten?
CASTIGLIA: There’s a few of ‘em. Oh, boy. Well, tattooing
in Brooklyn, many, many moons ago, I mean probably 10 years ago, a female
wanted… She was on the phone with her boyfriend who was dictating to her what
she was going to be getting tattooed, and she got, above her private area,
“[Boyfriend name]’s Playhouse”… And I debated this with her for a good 20
minutes beforehand that it was not something that she was most likely going to
live comfortably with and would probably want to have it covered or removed.
But she absolutely insisted, and we did it.
FANG: That’s ridiculous!
CASTIGLIA: Yeah, it was ridiculous.
FANG: Which do you prefer: canvas painting or tattoo
CASTIGLIA: They do a battle in my life for first place. If
I had to choose one that I could do full-time, it would be my painting. And the
reason I say that is because there’s no specifications given—I’m painting
purely from where I am. Even if there’s a collector commissioning it, I give it
life. I give it the framework. There’s no specifics inhibiting it.
For more, please visit Castiglia's official site here.
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