Tuesday, August 06, 2013


The piece entitled The Snake Men and the Apple Tree (Panel/Scene #4) is my interpretation of the Edenic creature described in the third book of Genesis. The snake can be considered as one of the oldest and most renowned symbols in history; at times described as a symbol of fertility, knowledge, and power (good and evil). The Edenic snake is not far from any common symbolisms, as the snake tells Eve in the book of Genesis 03:05; “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” alluding to the power of knowledge.

Michelangelo. Fall of Man. Sistine Chapel, Vatican (ceiling, 130 feet 6 inches x 43 feet 5 inches)

Including the snake in the Sin series was obviously necessary since the snake has been attributed as the catalyst of all evil “Sin” although many believe that the snake represents the devil she/he does not get label as such till Revelation 12:9; 20:2. Many artists have depicted the snake on the tree either literally as a snake or figuratively as a humanoid (half human half snake). It seems that throughout times artist have opted to illustrate the snake/humanoid with a women torso over that of a male. In some cases when the humanoid is portrait as men he will have the appearance of a demon like figure, intimidating and repulsive, as opposed to a female torso where the humanoid then will look inviting, seductive, and pleasant.

Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. The Snake Men and the Apple Tree. Drawing, mixed media on paper. 50” X 60”, 2008

Giving my snake a male torso is to maintain uniformity with my interpretation of sexual innuendos throughout the series. I believe as I explained with my portraits of Adam and Eve that the snake is a symbol, an extension of Adams sexuality (penis). I sustain my interpretation that Adam might have been the first to entice Eve to his sexuality and that by consummating sexual pleasures and eating the forbidden fruit (Eve) that they became aware of each other’s humanity and vulnerability towards God. My humanoid is hidden behind the shadows of an apple tree, muscular in a confrontational posture demanding authority over humanity, virile full of sexual anger as it taunts, mocks the sin of Lust.


Caneday, Ardel B. Four Views on the Historical Adam (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Zondervan (November 26, 2013).
Jacobs, Alan. Original Sin: A Cultural History. Harper One; Reprint edition (April 28, 2009).
Anderson, Gary A. Sin: A History. Yale University Press (August 31, 2010).
Wiley, Tatha. Original Sin: Origins, Developments, Contemporary Meanings. Paulist Press (November 1, 2002).
Pagels, Elaine. Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity. Vintage; Vintage Books ed edition (September 19, 1989).
Pagels Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. Vintage; 1st Vintage Bks Ed, Sept. 1989 edition (September 19, 1989).
Toorn, Karel Van Der. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Ddd). Brill Academic Pub; 2nd Rev edition (October 1998).

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Dinner For The MAC; 10 Artists + 1

Artist: Antonio Fonseca. Primer Pecado “First Sin” Mixed media “Coffee, and charcoal” on paper
    24" x 24"2011

On Friday, June 8th 2012, Antonio Fonseca and ten other artists participated in the annual dinner auction fundraiser to benefit the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Puerto Rico. Together with Sofía Maldonado, Melvin Martínez, Nina Méndez, Lorna Otero, Nestor Paoli, Edgar Rodríguez Luiggi, Jaime Romano, Noemí Ruiz, Jaime Suárez, and the twins Jaime and Javier Suárez. Dinner for the MAC 10 artist plus 1 took place at the prestigious restaurant Augustos. The night was filled with great music, art and food, most important the moneys collected in support to the Museum would have not been possible without the support of the artist, and devoted collectors. Thank you all for your support in making this event such a great success. (Thank you Georgie)

Adam and Eve seam to keep re-surfacing every now and then. This piece was lying around the studio for some time; patiently waiting to be finished. When I was invited to participate in the auction fundraiser to benefit the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Puerto Rico I thought, it would be a great peace to donate to this event since it resembles the technical characteristics of the Sin project. I have four versions of this subject, now three of them have been shown the remaining version is part of the Sin series and will be unveiled sometime soon. In this version Adam is playing a mysterious role as if he has no involvement Eve holds the apple branch in hand as if enticing him with it. Technically this piece was simple, the paper was stained using Coffee then baked, stretched, and drawn on with pencil and charcoal.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Sins

I.       Aesthetic and Philosophical Statement The Early Stages
Some reoccurring aesthetic elements and iconography since my early development as an artist have dealt with various subject matters such as social, political, cultural and religious issues. For many years I have worked in defining my identity as an individual, as Puertorican, as a minority, etc. By defining myself I have been re-interpreting what it is to be me and have fallen in a never ending cycle of re-assessing and re-invent myself as a Puertorican artist in both my island and the United States.

I am, as pointed to me various time by art critic and historian Alvarez Lezama as an existentialist artist. Existentialism is a philosophical movement that denies that the universe has any intrinsic meaning or purpose. It requires people to take responsibility for their own actions and shape their own destinies.[1]

It has never been my intention to create in any shape or form a negative discourse or to criticize society. I try very hard not to place judgment into human behavior; instead I intend to create a statement that will provoke analysis, by questioning our own individual existence as we engage in a direct critical dialog. Of course I do have my own beliefs and opinions and lots of discriminatory judgment, I would be lying if I say I don’t, it’s my given right and nature as a human being to do so; right?  I view myself as a chronicler / journalist, I continuously look at my life honestly and without any inhibitions, my surroundings, my family, my heritage, people, society, etc.; de-constructing and re-configuring to create work that tell stories, that will engage the spectator into what I affectionately call the circus, the spectacle of life.

Figure 1. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. Metropol. Drawing mixed media on paper. 44” x 60”. 1997. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

My aesthetic / visual discourse came to realization in 1997, with Shh, Shh, Shh, Silencio; Shh, Shh, Shh, Silence (Figure 2) large format Drawing that earned an award in the Biannual of Casa Roig in 1994. But it was not until 1997 with the work shown at the Botello Gallery[2] that my philosophical statement was solidified. Each work in this series was a clear example of my visual language, but none of them where as direct to the subject/statement as Metropol (Figure 1).  Metropol illustrates my interest in the political and social structure of the people and environment I was surrounded by in my daily trips from Caguas to Old San Juan in a 15 passenger van “pisa y corre,”[3]when attending the School of Fine Arts. At that time I was researching German Expressionism and stumbled upon a film by Fritz Lang titled Metropolis[4] which is still a significant influence in my artwork. This 1997 show at the Botello Gallery catapulted me as one of the islands most promising artist and earned me the recognition of one of Puerto Ricos’ most influential drawing artist of the time. Sadly this show was to be the only drawing show I would have done since then.

Figure 2. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. Shh, Shh, Shh, Silencio Shh, Shh, Shh, Silence. Drawing mixed media on paper. 60” x 50”. 1997. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

Figure 3. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. Trazos de Identidad y Cultura, Traces of Identity and Culture. Oil/mixed media on linen. 77” x 110.” 1998. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.
Figure 4. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. Recordando a Los Viejos, Remembering my Grandparents. Oil/mixed media on wood. 24” x 48 x 4.” 2003. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.
My visual and philosophical statement has been similar from 1998 to 2006. During this period some of my most publically acclaimed exhibits have been; Viciones Visions 2001[5], Recordando Remembering 2004[6], Entre La Memoria Y El Icono Between Memories and the Icons 2004[7] and Doble Sentido Double Intender 2006[8].

Figure 5. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. La Marketa, The Market. Oil on Linen and canvas. 98” x 102.” 2001. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

Some important art works from these shows that have become icons of my art career are: La Marketa The Market, (Figure 5) awarded the third prize at the 34éme Festival Internacional de la Pinture, Chateau-Museum de Cagnes-Sur-Mer, Cote d’Azur, France, 2002. Trazos De Identidad Y Cultura Traces of Identity and Culture (Figure 3) awarded an honorific mention at the XXXeme International Painting Festival of the Museum of Cagnes - Sur-Mer, Cote D'Azur, France in 1998. Memorias Desconosidas Unknown Memmories, Recordando A Los Viejos Remembering My Grandparents. (figure 7) and Toxicidad Social Social Toxicity” (Figure 8).

Figure 6. Antonio FonsecaVázquez. Memorias de mi Niñez, Childhood Memories. Oil/mixed media on wood. 24” x 48 x 4.” 2003. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

Figure 7. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. Memorias Desconosidas, Uncnown Memories. Mixed Media. Variable dimensions. 2003. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

Figure 8. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. Toxicidad Social, Social Toxicity. Oil on linen and canvas, photo on canvas. 48" x 172". 2003. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

II. The Evolution of My Sins

In retrospect there is no definitive starting point in my work or research that could be consider the beginning of my interest in religion as a subject matter. Religion has always been an important element in my life and work. My parents, more so my mother where avid religious people; religion, family, Sunday mass, becoming an altar boy, church schooling, and so on, my involvement was so great that I even contemplated becoming a priest.

Common practices in Puerto Rican culture caught my interest. Altar pieces are customary in all social circles, this altar pieces are clearly distinctive elements that conform to Santeria. I noticed that for most people the idea of considering their practice as Santeria was sacrilege. I believe that the ritual has transcended its religious fundaments and has become engrained in Puerto Rican culture and became national folklore.  This phenomenon might have taken place as a social response, as Puerto Rican people embraced their nationalistic image in order to preserve their identity in the midst of invasions / colonization and eventually the fast emersion of American culture. Still today many homes in and outside Puerto Rico have altar pieces, either as a space to pray, a space to give homage to their patron saints, the dead or the living, and so on. This altar pieces can be simple but are commonly gothic and over decorated with candles, pictures, icons, miracles and other objects.

This series was extremely inspiring; it gave form to my then thesis/research and helped solidify my aesthetic and philosophical statement. Works such as; Olofín Oraciones a los Santos (Figure 9 and 10)“Olofín Prayers to the Saints”, and Entre Páginas y Memorias (Figure 11), “Between Pages and Memories.” The first was a series of hand pulled color lithographs containing images and prayers; i.e. Oración a la Mano Poderosa “Prayer to The Powerfull Hand,” Oración a las Docemil Virgenes “Prayer to the Twelve Thousand Virgins,” etc. The second was a series of hand pulled color lithographs where Biblical passages where used as references to a series of images that portrayed my interpretation of that scripture as it related to my very own iconography. Some of the works from this series are: Porque Tú Me Cargastes En Tus Entrañas, Leyes sobre la Castidad, etc.
Figure 9. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. From the series Olofn Oraciones a Santos From the Series Olofín Prayers to the Saints. Top to Buttom: Oración A las Tres Divina Potencia, Prayer to the Holly Trinity, Oración al Sagrado Corazón, Prayer to the Sacred Heart, Oración a las 1,000 Virgenes, Prayer to the 1,000 Virgins. Color stone and positive photo lithography on paper. 8”x 18” on paper. 1999. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

Figure 10. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. From the series Olofn Oraciones a Santos From the Series Olofín Prayers to the Saints. Top to Buttom: Portfolio Cover, Credo, Creed, Colofón, Colophon Color stone and positive photo lithography on paper. 8”x 18” on paper. 1999. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

Figure 11. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. From the series Entre Páginas Y Memorias From the Series Between Pages and Memories. Porque Tú Me Cargastes En Tus Entrañas. 1999.   Color stone and positive photo lithography on paper. 8”x 18” on paper. 1999. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.
These two series became the template to what would soon become my obsession with sin, evil, and human behavior. It was at this time that I first attempted to work with the Seven Deadly Sins.

Figure 12. Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. From left to right: La Virgen Del Platanal, The Virgine of the Plantains, La Virgen Desconosida, The Uncknown Virgin, La Virgen Borinqueña, The Borinquña Virgen. Positive photo lithography, silkscreen soft pastels and oil paint on paper. 36”x 26.5”. 1999. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.
I started with Sloth an 8’ diameter charcoal drawing which was shown in the Boriken Gallery, Rhinebeck New York. I envisioned creating seven large format circle charcoal drawings; but after many sketches and studies the only drawing that was finalized was that of Sloth. I struggled and underwent extreme frustration as I was attempting to formalize this series. Many artists have worked with this subject and there are millions of interpretations to analyze and study with. One would guess that such an overworked and researched concept would be easy to work with, but in reality it never is, in fact it humbles you and forces you to reconsider the relevance of your “new” interpretation. I did not want to repeat what has been done and I definitely did not wanted the work to be an illustration and/or a literal representations of the sins.

I kept sketching and researching as I was working other series. At times it seemed as if I was heading towards the right direction only to find even larger road blocks. At this point the only concrete concept I had for the series was that it will be done in paper, mixed media predominantly drawing, that the format was to be monumental and that it will be set installation style to evoke a theatrical read to the story.

Once again frustration made me put the work to rest only for it to resurface back again in 2002-2003 as I was working the series for the show De La Memoria y el Icono “Of Memories and Icons”, I started a large scale drawing representative of Gluttony which was not shown in that exhibition.

Gluttony portrays a human figure suffering of what seems to be anorexia, a slumber atmosphere with an overwhelming sense of depression. A figure surrounded by an apple tree with branches full of apple as it represents nature’s fertility. Patterns mix with the tree branches create a balanced contrast with the figure, as the layers of bones, muscles and human tissue coexist together in a well-balanced aesthetic beauty. People who saw the work during process use to describe it as, “an image that attracts you, that calls upon you due to its pleasant balance, craftsmanship and aesthetic beauty only to be assaulted by the harsh statement of its subject matter”. The drawing was shelved in 2003; I was still not satisfied with the direction the project was heading.
In 2005-2006 I was working the series for the show Doble Sentido, when I created a diptych “Adam and Eve.” With this image I intended to address the issue of sexuality as a defining element of one self. By switching the sexual organs I make a threat full statement about sexuality and its ambiguity. The question was; am I a man because of my physical sexuality or would Eve still be the first to sin if she was the one with the male genitalia? By creating a contrasting and shocking statement, the spectator is forced to reconsider the idea that gender is not necessarily what causes the events that provoked the chain reaction of what will be considered the Sin of man. This work was only shown once, at Arte America but was rapidly embraced by the public and gave me the opportunity to re-introduce myself back in to drawing.

I realized at this point that my primary issues with the series were due to the fact that I was not emotionally and or at the necessary skill level to have taken such a challenge. The focus needed to be broader and not restricted to the seven sins. I was to create a play as if each panel was an act and tell the story of evil and Sin.

III. It All Goes Back to Adam and Eve

Figure 13.Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. Eve (Second Version). Drawing Charcoal, and zafron on paper. 72” x 50”. 1997. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

Figure 14.Antonio Fonseca Vázquez. Adam (Second Version), Drawing Charcoal, and zafron on paper. 72” x 50”. 1997. © Antonio Fonseca Vázquez.

After the first version of Adam and Eve I revisited the piece “Gluttony” which triggered an unstoppable flux of images and iconography. I have designed sketched and laid out a series of at least sixteen images and have many more which in concept has the potential of been at least a mile long installation. Another Version of Adam and Eve (Figure 13 and 14) soon followed. I decided that in order to clearly formulate a dialog of Sin and Evil and its mythology/folklore I was to begging at the very core of sin, Adam and Eve are of course obvious elements to the story line. It is in Genesis that we get introduce to critical icons and symbols that carry within them important elements to the story of good and evil. The tree of life briefly mentioned in the narrative but an essential character to the development of the story regardless of the uncertainty of the type of fruit that was eaten.

I used the symbolism and iconography as follows: Eve, female, one with nature the bearer of life, the similarities of her sexuality to that of the fruit, etc. I attempt to establish a statement that makes her be the forbidden fruit “the tree of Life.” That is why in my new interpretation of Eve an apple tree finds its way out of her Vagina.

To follow such statement Adam reaches over to retrieve an apple from this tree. The desire of the flesh, the call of his sexuality made it easy for him to commit into temptation. In my work there is no argument of guilt on who tempted who, but more so a dialog concerning human nature. Adam is not clear of guilt, he is the snake, “phallic symbol” an image of power, fertility represented in the drawing as Adams enormous penis, the snake, the trickster that calls upon Eve’s and seduces her to commit sin. From this point on it all fell in place the iconography the imagery, the story, etc.

Throughout all the panels the reoccurring image of the apple trees gives the series the uniformity and visual coherence to sustain the dialog. The linear progression of the story is steady and easily conformed to my own personal interpretations and visual iconography. Other images finalized as of today are: Second Act: The Snake Man and the Apple Tree, Third Act: Lust, Fourth Act: Anger, Fifth: Envy.
I must honestly admit that the end result is a bit uncertain, but one thing I know for sure, if the end result embodies the intensity of the journey as of today, it will be one hell of a ride...

To be continued…..

[1] Encarta World English Dictionary (North American Edition) (P) 2009 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
[2] Dibujos Recientes; Botello Gallery, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1997.
[3] Pisa y Corre, Puerto Rican slang, it is used to describe 15 to 18 passenger vans which are used as public transportation.
[4] Metropolis; Fritz Lang, 1927.
[5] Visiones; Botello Gallery, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2001.
[6] Recordando; Caguas Museum of Art, Caguas Puerto Rico, 2004.
[7] Entre La Memoria Y El Icono / Between the Memories and the Icons; Botello Gallery, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1994.
[8] Doble Sentido / Double Intendre; Viota Gallery, San Juan Puerto Rico, 2006.