First published: Winter 2009
The artwork of Daniel Martin Diaz is a strange mélange of ancient and contemporary. Part religious icon, part emotionally laden and sorrowful lament, Diaz's work features blood-soaked yet gentle-eyed Christs, floating crowned fetuses, multi-headed beasts and martyred apocalypse monsters, dancing skeletons, and beautiful Madonnas all appearing in bleak barren landscapes. Formal as Byzantine portraits, they also have a pleasing off-kilter imperfection, evidence of the artist's hand that lends a poignancy to the outré imagery.
Circling these central figures are strange cherubs, Latin text in banners, and alchemical and astrological symbols. These unusual amalgamations create a feeling of mystery, of questions that prod our subconscious, while also carrying the slightest touch of rock and roll about them. Partly because of the transgressive nature of the imagery Diaz juxtaposes as well as the unapologetic sincerity behind the work itself, Diaz's paintings and drawings have a shocking appeal.
Diaz's work, despite feeling so strangely familiar, is distinctly unlike anything else, and is executed with such aforementioned sincerity and crafted elegance that he has been asked not only to create album covers but also artwork for churches (two painted panels in the San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church in San Carlos, Mexico).
Diaz's imagery is influenced greatly by his childhood memories growing up in a Mexican-American household in Arizona, where he still resides. He says, 'I have memories of sitting in church as a child and seeing the statue of Christ behind the altar, and seeing the blood flowing down his face, smelling the incense, and listening to the singing and chanting. There is a profoundness, especially here in the Southwest, that captures a mysticism.'
The 'terrible beauty' of the Southwestern landscape as well as the prevalence of Spanish and Mexican influences on the culture in that region seem to play a role in Diaz's work, such as the brutal depictions of the suffering of Christ, presented in all it's bloody glory in some historical Spanish art (traditionally a device used to make clear the extent of Christ's compassion) as well as the presentation of Mary as a 'Queen of Heaven' type-figure. Other influences on his eclectic style include fantastical Mexican retablos, mystical votive offerings, the Flemish primitives, Gothic ornamentation, and arcane religious sigils and medallions, as well as symbolism culled from assorted secret societies such as Freemasonry.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #68