Q&A: Vincent Castiglia Paints Exclusively in His Own Blood (but Used Semen Once)
Lots of artists stand out for designing some kick-ass metal covers -- like the recently deceased Storm Thorgerson, for example, who lent his art to everyone from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath over the course of 30 years. But when it comes to weaving together the heavy metal standard of horror, the dark side of humanity, and substantial sacrifices to the heavy metal gods, the first person that comes to mind has to be Vincent Castiglia.
In short, his work is bloody wonderful.
He designed (with H.R. Giger) Triptykon's 2010 debut release, Eparistera Daimones, and is known for a collection of art that has appealed to everyone from Marilyn Manson to Metallica. He's also known for this fact: His entire body of work is created exclusively in his own blood.
Castiglia creates detailed pieces in his studio, transferring actual flesh and blood to each work, practicing a modern-day blood-letting and siphoning his life force for a realism that dissolves the barrier between artist and art in the most literal sense.
As Celtic Frost vocalist Martin Eric Ain has stated, just a little dramatically, "If the body is the temple, then the heart is the altar and the blood is the sacred flame that enlightens the shrine. Vincent is painting with holy light."
His work also hangs in a wide range of spaces and galleries, from Greg Allman's walls (he purchased one of Castiglia's most celebrated works, Gravity) to Switzerland's the Museum of Porn in Art and New York's Fuse Gallery.
Up on the Sun talked with Castiglia about nearly dying for his art, the band he would love to design an album cover for, and the time he experimented with semen as a medium.
You've said that you originally began painting with your blood to become more intimate with you work. But when was the exact moment you realized that's what you could -- and would -- do?
It was the point when I started using blood exclusively. I had been using it in conjunction with pen and ink, and that felt right. I connected with the work on a deeper level. But then I did some initial very loose paintings, and at that moment it became evident.
How is blood different from paint to work with?
There isn't a big difference. Well, there is and there isn't. I would compare it to watercolor, like opaque watercolor. But I work from five consistencies, to mostly water with a few drops of blood, all the way to just straight blood that's been given a chance to decompose a bit and become more opaque.
And that's how that happens, through natural decomposition. And that stuff -- over the course of working on a project and it being a room temperature while not refrigerated while I'm working -- that's almost like acrylic paint. It straddles the line between watercolor and acrylic.
Have you ever experimented with other human bodily fluids or anyone else's blood?
I've worked with others' blood. I'd taken donations when my lung collapsed in 2008. I was doing my first solo show, which was to open at the H.R. Giger Museum and Gallery in Switzerland. I was working long hours and was not keeping track of how much blood I had collected. I was stressed out and pretty weak.
What about other bodily fluids?
[Laughter] Bodily fluids . . . I have.