His works of art have earned him the title of “enfant terrible” because he stormed into the photography scene causing amazement. And this is not the least to say, as Santizo makes baroque images that aim directly at creating controversy by stressing religious, social, and sexual symbolism, the latter which is a taboo in Guatemala. He was formed in the fine arts, and printing, and he uses photography as a way of expression, which is yet another challenge to orthodox photographers.

The Clown of Cyrene (2008) was the piece that placed him in the art’s scene, presented at the auction of Juannio, in 2008, and that entailed, for him, the recognition of an international jury. His art works can be seen as philosophical questionings, because they unleash a series of thoughts, if one goes beyond the mere denotation. Up until now his creations have been based on mise-en-scènes were he has given way to the intertextuality, comprehended as a phenomenon that forced the reading of the image, and that contradicted their linear envisioning. And, by doing this, he created dialectic between the image being deciphered by the people, and the image that the people remembered. This forced a dialogue with the observer. This framework is Santizo’s starting point to present issues like intolerance to the diverse, violence, and the paradoxical in these type of societies.

The clown is a constant character, till now, in his portfolio, as an eternal travel friend. Since his first creations, like The Appearance to the Clowns (2007), Santizo started a spectacular relationship. This is the conducting wire of his yet-to-be lifework, out of which Santizo has been able to make only some scenes. Through laughter he condenses evasion, which is, in reality, pain and sadness -a mask to survive-. In The Clown of Cyrene, his own image is the main character of the Station of the Cross, which is, in reality, an ironic and caustic perspective of the life and society in which he lives. A road of pain, with which he identifies, were one is his own solace in front of a tempestuous landscape. A road were only the jolly can be a real help, because the blows come unfettered from a cross-dressed force.

Another of his outstanding photographs is The Surrender (2008), presented in the Biennial of Art Paiz, which represents a typical urban fight between gang members and police forces. The textual background is The Surrender of Breda. The mask becomes a sign used masterfully, and that unveils, instead of hiding, truths. Policemen are presented like pigs, young men are cross-dressed like ducks, dogs, and monkeys. Human nature is animal. Here the surrender is to the tragicomic violence, in the face of the undaunted gaze of the security forces and other people that don’t risk helping others when the time comes. The individual is alone and powerless, and it is best to surrender. This can also be seen in the triptych The Lost Bullet (2008), where to survive is better to be dressed in joy.

Just like the clown, the transgender character is able to sneak in some of his pictures, with yet another tragic destiny: in The Surrender he/she is abused by the policemen, but in The Exorcism (2009), he/she is seen as a work of the devil, exorcized by a priest, because of his mother. Santizo unveils the abuses and degradation of the country’s institutions and families against the odd.

Santizo treats sensitive issues with wit. From one perspective he questions the doctrinaire force of religious icons, which, because of their power, can blind the individual and make him prey of his own alienation. The religious is unmasked; the dark side of religious groups is shown, like in The Assumption (2008). Male nudity, a taboo for the Guatemalan society, is worked through a costume of the human body, with which he achieves a beefy body, similar to that of today’s Batman or Spiderman, in a direct dialogue with the movies, but also with others works of art, and gay magazines.

Some of Santizo’s pictures look innocent, like Community (2009), which through different volumetric info graphics exemplifies the lynching made in the Guatemalan rural areas. Because of the pictures’ treatment everything seems like an ironic children’s game, but which in actuality is something savage and macabre. In The Extraction from the Stone (2009), Santizo unveils the improvised situation of the Guatemalan health system, where a shabby doctor smokes, while making a chirurgical incision. The stone is a crack stone that anxiously waits for its mate, in front of a woman with bored-looking eyes, and discomfort.

Santizo allows us to see the dead weight of corrupted and suffocating institutions that don’t provide solutions. At times his photographs seem to complete the painters’ dreams, which they weren’t able to achieve in their times, but that this artists seems to do.  There is much from the baroque in this works of art, as mentioned by art critics, a lot of paraphernalia endemic to the Guatemalans. All of these art works keep actuality and freshness because their referent is the tough life.


Miguel Flores Castellanos

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