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Josefina Ayerza


JA: As for the phantasmal image of the girl in Undrampech (Venom) who is handing out two glasses—the glasses containing a certain potion which, at first sight, looks like a rather dark wine—is her gesture a religious one?

JG: In those glasses, there is venom. She offers this venom for someone to drink it and die.

JA: Is this the woman in the portrait's destiny?

JG: Not necessarily; it may be anyone.

JA: Is the venom coming from the pot on the lower right side of the painting?

JG: Somehow. This is my love for Chinese pottery. The pot stands after the soul, thus the fantasy: it flows out through the holes.

JA: The holes of the soul . . . ? The soul in the holes . . . ?

JG: The soul through the holes.

JA: In Ofo and Vita, a whole tragedy is taking place high up in the sky. Who's hugging you by the neck? While being collected in a floating basket, streams of tears pour from sorrowful eyes; gushes of blue flow from a green, menacing artery; currents of red shape a cup of sorrow ....

JG: Ofo and Vita were my grandparents. They loved me; they tortured me, you know . . . then they died. Those eyes among the clouds are my own eyes; I wanted the tears to go in the basket so that they wouldn't be wasted. I thought of gathering my pain and maybe doing something with it. The red involves the shedding of blood; the blue . . well, I don't remember. On the whole, it's about me inflicting pain on myself. I know how to do it. I need to do this. I like to do it.

JA: With respect to Strong Thought . . . these images looking like genitals, like guns, do they speak for something?

JG: They speak for nothing. These are my very internal images; they happen to suddenly appear and I paint them. I don't know what they stand for.

JA: Does Arreglo Sexual (Sexual Arrangement) have a story?

JG: Sure. This is my sexual self confined in a room I had to live in for a short time. How to deal with my vehement sexuality? I tore the paper from the walls and flowers appeared underneath. I tied up my body to restrain its wanton impulses... the round small mirror brings the image of the world: synthesis.

JA: Is Jul going through the same impassioned problem?

JG: Sure. This is why I cut his name: "Jul" cutting up "Julio" is articulating the actual restriction. A black device enclosing my hands in sockets restrains them from touching my body. Obviously there's dislike, and there's anger, also despair.

JA: So Dark Music. . . under a wig, behind a mask, a red vestige sets up an autocratic presence. Does it take in your suspended image? Around this image's ideally centered sphincter, musical notes circle, becoming indistinguishable from the black shoes. At this point, we might guess that the pot of flowers at the lower left of the painting is mirroring the soul.

JG: In this painting, I'm exposing my pleasure, my ways of pleasure: I'm making an offering of myself. The red man behind the mask holding me up in the air is none other than myself, my very supernatural self. There's music in this painting, music that comes from the soul.

JA: Are you in love with yourself?

JG: Sure. This is what I paint, this love of me. Once I took it so far as to make love to myself. I'll tell you the story. Before going to sleep, I had put one of my pictures between my bed and the wall close to my bed. Suddenly I woke up, and the emotion was so strong that I grabbed the painting, in my hands, put it on top of me, and made love with it...

As Galán talks, one cannot fail to hear the artist's words feeding on his very thoughts. A commonplace love, the relationship between siblings, plays about in his guts. Portrait of Sofia discloses the tender story: always on his side, Galán's sister supported his work against parents, grandparents, whoever would stand in his way. So this is homage to this sister, the dearly loved one.

Storm Self-Portrait identifies the artist with the luminous ship struggling in the waves. Heavy, stormy masses of clouds loom in the background. Galán sees himself "depicted in this dark, parting cloudiness as it makes faces. The tiny figure in the sky is the way I picture God."

El Encantamiento (The Enchantment) brings up labor, rendered behind flowered curtains. The midwife, again a portrait of the artist, will capture the image in the background, giving it tangible expression. Of course, Galán is giving birth to himself: but he wants to veil it: the subterfuge discloses painting, itself, as he obscures the scenes behind circles, squares, dots ...

El amor entre tu y yo nunca entro en mis planes (Love Between You and Me Never Entered My Plans), in the style of a stamp, a postcard—melodrama is setting the mountains apart. Humanized, these mountains suggest that something's going to happen, something quite like what already happened..."A failed plan; this failure, itself, led me to do this painting."

In search of a category in which to fit Galán's iconography, one may single out intended meaning somehow independent of the form or style of expression. "...si te asusta no verme por lo que ves, a mi me asusta no verte a veces. "...if it frightens you to see me because of what you see, sometimes not seeing you frightens me." This notion in No te has dormido? 2025 (Haven't You Gone to Sleep? 2025), one of the artist's early paintings, may acknowledge the legendary Mexican-Colonial tradition. At one time, a foreign religion was introduced in Mexico: Christianity. Superimposed upon the native creeds, Mexican Catholicism—the new religion combined with the old—turned out to be something quite different from the Catholicism of the European conquerors.

Galán's rhetorical position enhances tension and irony, as polarities go about their separate ways. Yet, something comes together as they join in the act of painting: Love between you and me never entered my plans.

Interview and images taken from the catalogue of the exhibition Dark Music at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.