Using his own blood, New York artist paints 'Resurrection' exhibit

By Andrea Burzynski, Reuters

Posted at Oct 05 2012 04:25 PM | Updated as of Oct 06 2012 12:26 AM

NEW YORK - Many artists claim to put their blood, sweat and tears into their work, but Vincent Castiglia means it: he paints with his own blood.

The New York painter has a new exhibit, "Resurrection," in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood that opened on Thursday and is due to run through October. It features a number of Castiglia's paintings from the last 10 years, all of which were created with Castiglia's blood.

Castiglia, 30, said in an interview this week that his first experiments with this medium were prompted by a "need to connect with my work on the most intimate level."

Human blood contains iron oxide, he explained, a pigment found in many traditional paints, and which occurs naturally in iron ore and common rust.

The public's reaction in the past has been overwhelmingly positive, he said, but he does not discount that some people could find his choice of medium creepy or gimmicky.

"My response would be to really take a look at the content of the work, which overshadows what it's made from, I think," he said. "In order for something to be a gimmick, it really would have to lack substance."

His process includes making a preliminary pen or graphite sketch and extracting just enough "paint" in the privacy of his studio. He then pulls out his brushes to paint surrealistic, red ochre-hued images typically featuring human bodies in some stage of decay paired with abstract backgrounds.

One of his larger, more detailed paintings can take more than three months to complete. His paintings range in price from $950 to $26,000. Rock and blues musician Gregg Allman, who recently acquired a 2006 painting by Castiglia called "Gravity."

His "Resurrection" exhibit is themed around Castiglia's interest in life's transience and harmony he sees between life and death.

As an example, he cited "Feeding," which depicts a mother with decaying legs in a wheelchair gazing at an infant she is breastfeeding. Castiglia said he sees it as an expression of the fragility of life and the hope and drive that can still accompany it.

His work is shown primarily the United States and Europe, but Castiglia's art may be familiar to slasher film and heavy metal aficionados. In 2010, a piece by Castiglia served as the poster for horror flick "Savage County," and other paintings were used as album art for Swiss heavy metal band Triptykon's debut "Eparistera Daimones" the same year.