RARE Gallery by santiago cal

October 16th, 2014,

I would like to thank  Peter Surace , Andrew Everett and Santiago Rumney- Guggenheim for curating and presenting my sculptures at RARE Gallery. It's up till Nov 13th, 2014 so please check it out. I would also like to thank Cary Whittier for the photographs and UNL Hixson -Lied College of Fine and Performing Art for their support. Please check out http://rare-gallery.com/category/exhibits/current/ for images of the installation.


RARE and Piagatto by santiago cal

This October I will be presenting new sculptures at RARE Gallery  in NYC. Please come check it out if you can. Very soon i will be posting in progress piece that will be there.

I will also be represented by Piagatto in Guatemala City. Please check out their Art and Design site for more information. 

one weak by santiago cal

 Dec 1st-9th was full of adventures, realizations and inspiration. I first attended the ISC conference where the hits, in my opinion, were Guerra de la Paz (http://www.guerradelapaz.com) and John Grade (http://www.johngrade.com.) The experience was wonderful because I met so many who dedicated themselves to sculpture. Some came to sculpture late in life and most were interested in large public works. I felt like a child at a grown up dinner. But truly, my favorite discussions in Miami were with the Japanese-American bartender at the tobacco road and the African- American bus driver. They had no agenda and generously conveyed their thoughts on life, place and the future. 

On Wednesday the 4th, I flew to Belize City for an encounter exhibition at the Image Factory Art foundation (http://www.imagefactorybelize.com) . This place is a humble well of motivation and space for honest dialogue. As soon as you enter, you strip naked of ethnicity, wealth and knowledge. Everyone is there to share and it is received with most respect. The space is run by Yasser Musa and Gilvano Swasey; friends I have the greatest admiration for. They are advocates of all avenues of creativity and work hard to represent the Belizean individuals participating in this arena. 

While there, I also got to visit with artists whom I have the lots of love for; Pen Cayetano, Sean Taegar and Michael Gordon. We are a motley crew but all admire the skills of the other. I also got to meet the new generation of makers. It was a magical time; below will have images of this encounter.



Long Canes by santiago cal

So the old four O has come and gone. Fortunately I find myself deep in projects and new ideas.  Too much for one post so I will continue where I left off.

Today I eagerly showed up for a tour of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Fatos, a small Turkish woman, intelligent, elegant and friendly greeted me with blue cane in hand. She apologized for walking slow due to a recent accident. She started by explaining the paintings on the walls, which were all done by blind or visually impaired artists. What struck me was the realism (from generalized to detailed) and how was this possible. I stood looking at Esref Armagan’s landscape painting, wondering “how”, since he has been blind since birth. The colors were right and the perspective was there.  Then again, how does Fatos know  this? She only has 10% of her vision. 

Already I felt like I was in another world. Our first stop was the woodshop…yes, the wood shop. Power tools everywhere and furniture in progress, it was a mess. I felt at home but wondered how the blind could find anything. I know what it’s like trying to find my measuring tape in my own studio. A young African-american man was there building an entertainment center for his new 60” flat screen TV. I was so confused that I stumbled  to ask, “why do you need a TV if you are blind?” Pause, I must add that his craft was better than almost all my students. His response was “ I love movies, plus, I have a son and guests who like TV.” Immediately I felt super ignorant, like someone going to another culture and asking “why do you do that?”  Graciously, he showed me how he measures with clicks and touch of his ruler.

So the tour continues to the computer lab, the braille learning room and kitchen. It was someone’s birthday so they where baking cupcakes. The guy icing the cupcakes had icing all over his mouth. I thought about his comfort in knowing that others can’t see and just enjoying the job.  I asked Fatos about mentally visualizing space versus the invented terrain. She said everyone is different but elaborated that she is an extremely visual person. Even though she cannot see a thing, she pictures it all; then proceeded to describe the room. She said that sometimes people think that the blind are just wondering aimlessly. But what they are doing is “seeing” the room or place.  

I then meet Jeff who gave me a history of the cane with physical examples. He is an amazing individual (granted everyone there is an amazing individual.) He looked everyone in the face and said hello as they walked by. He knew where I was in the room without a peep from me. He then proceeded to show me how the cane is used, palm grip or pencil grip, slow pace or fast; up stairs and down, familiar and unfamiliar, inside and out. The latter was when I was floored. Jeff knew every sound around us. The couple talking in the parking lot (which I did not hear but only could see), when the cars passed the trees which direction they went, how close we were to the building (echo,) etc. I could not help but ask when he had lost his sight. He said that when he was 19 (he’s now older than I.) I then asked if other senses have been amplified, thinking of my own sensitivity to sound, and he answered “ you are a photographer (I’ve been taking photos along the way), has it made your sight better?” My answer was “no”. He said “but it has made you see things in a more informed way.

between the nose and the chin by santiago cal

Today I was very fortunate to meet with Deanna from Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It was amazing to understand a bit more based around the use of the cane. One of the many subjects they teach is how to use this object. The standard length of the cane should be  "four steps" of the individual or the distance between the nose and the chin to the ground. The youngest person Deanna worked with was only 18 months old. Aside from realizing how much I take sight for granted, I envisioned how canes can give us some understanding of the person much like shoes; it's size and  where it's worn down from handling. Another fascinating statement was that other senses are not enhanced from visual impairment but instead brought to awareness. This is contrary to Oliver Sacks assessment that other senses are reallocated to the visual cortex, since there is evidence of activity within the visual cortex and no evidence of atrophy ("minds eye" article). In all fairness and honesty, I have not read his more recent accounts on the subject. 

So back to "Forty Rings" and how this relates. As I reconstruct events through the evidence of documentation and memory, there are two things that prevail my thoughts. First is the reliving of events, I have to suspend reality and drift into a imagined space. A place where details are revealed only through blindness of the now.  Second was how blindness is paralleled through many things like: suddenly being immersed into a new culture, the understanding of adulthood by children, and the understanding of after death by adults. These last statements are not likening willful delusion but instead an awareness that exists but unknown. This goes back to "fire is hot". 

The Minds Eye by santiago cal

I was recently given a 2003 article from The New Yorker on "What the blind see" by Oliver Sacks. The gesture stemmed from a conversation based on my intrigue into the visual topography of those without visual reference or the loss of visual reference. Although this is the beginning of my understanding on the subject , it was evident to me that is certainly pertinent to my recollection of life events and the resources for my sculptures. I plan on explaining this in more detail throughout this blog, but at this point, a few surfaced thoughts are based on "deep blindness" in relation to dreams/daydreams/ hallucinations; visual library in relation to memory; and senses that we don't sense. The last being revealed by suddenly trying to figure out - how does my inner voice sound when I read this? Is it like my own voice or is it different? Strangely enough, it was different in the sense of what I think I sound like.  

The project by santiago cal

Forty Rings by Santiago Cal


On May 4th, 1973, I was born blue and not breathing in a small hospital on the western border of Belize, Central America. Hopefully, on the 4th of May, 2013, I will be standing six feet tall and working in the basement of Richards Hall, Lincoln, Nebraska. This fortieth year of my existence has prompted me to sculpturally explore the time that I have been breathing. I will be gleaning from my memories and global events to create forty wooden figures, one representative for each year.

The objective of this research is to use myself as a parameter for a spectrum of ideas. Each must bear significance on the shaping of my character and understanding of life. Each figure will be engaged with an object or group of objects to represent the subject being explored. Although I have not charted all forty subjects, a few examples are as follows: Year One- As a newborn my mother took me home from to hospital to hear a strange and loud hum entering the house. The sound turned out to be a colony of army ants on the move and our home was in the path of their destruction. She used a burning rag soaked with kerosene on the end of a broom handle to detour them. The carved figure representing this year will be an infant being cuddled by two army ants (interestingly enough, later the MS-13 Gang is named Mara Salvatrucha after the Salvadorian army ant). Year Six- Civil war breaks out in El Salvador. Belize is a safe haven for refugees and my new schoolmates arrive with violent stories, extreme poverty and scarred bodies. This figure will be of a child carrying a bundle of firewood twice his body size but with hands that are fused shut. Year Ten- On an alter boy retreat to Mexico, I witnessed our priest molesting several of my friends. Needless to say it was the end of my alter boy experience but also shattered my trust of religious leaders and was the start of my spiritual questioning. This figure will be of a child with a dove perched on his tongue.

Some other examples of years and subjects are:

Year Twelve- Ryan White and AIDS as I entered adolescence

Year Seventeen- Desert Storm and Army recruitment

Year Twenty Two- Internet and the Confederacy.

Year twenty Five- Crack and the Kids that gave me hope.

Year Twenty Nine- 9/11 and the Midwest

Although this project has tremendous personal significance, I believe that many will be able to relate to the experiences portrayed. This alone is not the objective; instead, I’d like individuals to consider their own timeline and how it fits into this brief history.  At minimum, I will be offering an artistic synopsis of this time with the hopes of reminding or educating others.