This work was created for a Chicano Silk-screen Taller (Workshop) at Self-Help Graphics in Los Angeles, CA. This was done by the Wight Gallery at UCLA to promote a two year traveling exhibition, “CARA: Chicano Art Resistance and Affirmation”. The United States was divided into nine regions. Mario Castillo’s artwork was selected to represent the Midwest region.
This Serigraph is from Castillo’s late Chupicuaro period. This name comes from the Chupicuaro culture which flourished in the central valley of Mexico almost 3000 years ago. The influence of the Chupicuaro figurines is evident in the slanted eyes and triangular face.
The overall structure is derived from a gold piece representing the Mixtec deity, Mictlantecuhtli, lord of the dead and king of the underworld. The “greca” with pyramid steps, the third eye, and the green and red mosaic effect are appropriated from an ancient funerary mask from the Teotihuacán culture, one of Mexico’s earliest civilizations. Mixtec color relationships are blended with Cubism to arrive at a work that deals with cultural fusion.
This “mask” is about creating one’s own existence. From the eye’s pupils come forth two yellow lines which symbolize focus and attention, the way reality is manifested through sight. The eyes are creating their own foundation for their own identity. Because of the title, it is clear that it is about keeping and maintaining one’s own reason for being. In doing so, one resists cultural death, which is a current occurrence in today’s world. Maintaining one’s own historical reference makes one be assertive in recognizing one’s own heritage, one’s own roots.
The skull within the circle is appropriated from one of the bas-reliefs at the ball-court of Chichen Itza and it is also representative of the Lord of Death who is singing a “rebirth of the spirit” song with the “blooming flower” scroll. The skull is protected by a circle in the shape of a bird to signify flight and the protective security of the spirit. From the top of the skull/circle, emerges Quetzalcoatl (the feathered serpent). Here, Quetzalcoatl is symbolic of the essence of Christ and the Kundalini. This is why the serpent symbol shows seven “gates” in its body which relate to the seven chakras of spiritual development. These chakras are portals through which on passes to gain the enlightenment that as human beings we have the potential of attaining. According to Eastern religions, the passage through these gates is done by the Kundalini, which is supposedly shaped like an energy snake. It is through this “snake” that the astral body is capable of “flying away”, thus the term the feathered serpent. It is through the Kundalini, that one is able to relate to the universe beyond the self and the ego.
Embracing this universe beyond material reality makes one be more spiritual. The colors blue and white represent spirituality while the colors in the background stand for material life. From the open jaws of the Quetzalcoatl emerge the eyebrows in form of a speech scroll. They become the support for the eyes and the third eye (see detail). The bird in its center also symbolizes astral projection or spiritual flight. The “floating” triangles act as hieroglyphics, which push and pull on the pictorial space.