Antonio Castro

As I worked on these burlap paintings, I found myself going through a metaphysical and psychological quest. These works express my hybrid Mexican-American heritage and my farm worker experience. Thus, I am using both my Mexican indigenous past and my Catholic beliefs. This way, I am able to converge the duality of life and death, as the profound meaning in accepting death as a positive and necessary part of nature.

To achieve this quest I had to place myself back in childhood—make myself the same child who experienced not only the pain and suffering of working in the fields, but was also inquisitive about the enchanted soil. The quality of the natural and magical balance of the earth is being destroyed by man-made toxic chemicals. Although the contamination of our planet is endangering our lives, we should see that this dire situation is a part of the natural process of rebirth and death that can resurrect our need to preserve the very soil that gives birth to our food and nutrients, our water and air.

My main purpose in creating these paintings is to seek out an inner vision of spiritual content which these images demonstrate in my idiosyncratic manner. The dark shadow image represents the Catholic Mexican icon known as the Virgen del Guadalupe. This icon has a strong influence with many Mexican Catholics in Mexico and in the United States of America. A related Aztec icon, Tonantzin, was once known as a fertility goddess of the soil during the Pre-Columbian period. The Aztecs worshipped this goddess by gathering the fruits and vegetables during harvest season and gave their thanks. Tonantzin would praise the workers of the fields as “caretakers” and would watch over them and be sure that the soil would be fertile every year for a good harvest. The flames surrounding the dark shadow represent the individual spirit. Thus, the dark shadow in the paintings symbolizes the future grave of the farm worker and reconciles death in a positive form of nature and is cast from the individual as its own light source.

In this body of work, I am expressing my raw inner quest to reconnect me with my campesino (farm worker) roots of hard work, sweat, blood and prayer while waiting silently for life to begin again.

This floor installation is an image of the Virgen de Guadalupe or better known as Tonantzin. This conceptual altarpiece represents “the mother of the soil and guardian of her children of the earth.” The black shadow symbolizes the duality of human existence: life into death and death into life. It is the conception of both the grave and the womb of human existence.

The sun’s flames surrounding the shadow represents the energy of the human light. The light that sparks inside the human body and shines eternally every morning, hour, day month, year, decade, and centuries to come.

To participate: Stand inside the circle of the nine rocks that symbolize the solar system and acts as a beacon for envisioning your spirit to be a part of the conception, and sense a spiritual inner-action with the shadow of Tonantzin-Guadalupe.

Use four seeds of corn from the basket as follows:

*Plant one seed of corn in the earth anywhere near the shadow of Tonantzin-Guadalupe.

*Give one seed of corn to a friend and describe your experience.

*Leave one seed of corn at the gravesite of any beloved deceased.

*Keep one seed of corn as a reminder.