First published: Summer 2015
Twisted wire-formed letters near the top spell “Jesus Cristo”, and sometimes, when Dominic Espinoza “looks real close” at his castle, he sees the face of crucified Jesus looking back. He built in no such anthropomorphic features, but to his eyes the castle becomes an acheiropoieton (created without human hands) – a three-storey, embossed metal icon image of Christ. Embodying the vision he sees of Jesus “when he had his thorns on”, his head and shoulders slump and then, as if having described a fleeting vision of the Veil of Veronica rippling in the Colorado breezes, he looks up.
“I have a different image of the castle; we call it ‘the castle’, but still its something that God made, he just used me, I can’t explain it.” After first digging an underground potato cellar on the site, the castle began in 1980 when Cano built a steam room above the cellar, and took improvised shape as found materials presented themselves over about 20 years.
Like royal jewels, the “King” (left) and “Queen” (right) towers glow at night when Espinoza lights up the strings of internal lighting, photo: Fred Scruton
“[I] just followed where one board ends, looking at it, and imagining the board is gonna throw me this way – oh, I think that looks good – I’ll just follow that.”
Espinoza calls the taller, rounder of the central towers “the King”, and its amply-crowned angular consort, “the Queen”. Bejeweled with glittering circles of aluminium can-bottom and coloured glass-bottle relief, and, visible in the distance from the main-street highway that runs through Antonito, they rose slowly over surrounding houses like a pair of asymmetrical Gothic towers. South of the King is the low rectangular “Rook”, and turned 90 degrees towards the street to the north, the flag-bearing “Knight” completes the castle grouping. Espinoza had no thoughts of building monumental board pieces – the chess names occurred to him only after the castle structures had taken shape. To make the boxy Knight appear more equine, he plans to add a dragon head with a mane of hubcaps and cans.
Espinoza embedded his chain-link property fence inside the same orange rocks he brought back from the desert to build the castle. Now inside castle walls, Espinoza’s corner house is to the left as visitors enter through an arched rebar, aluminum-plated gateway, and the castle fills out the block-wide lot to a dirt alleyway on the right. With the aid of ropes he is able to climb around inside, but the castle structures are not inhabitable.
More of a shrine than a building, wire letters under a protective overhang towards the center of the King read “La Virgen De Guadalupe”. Pervasive in Hispanic Catholic culture, the vision of Mary standing on a black crescent moon surrounded by emanating rays is also known as “Our Lady of Guadalupe”. A sanctioned miracle in the acheiropoietic tradition, the image was miraculously imprinted inside Saint Juan Diego’s peasant cloak full of flowers, after he witnessed glowing apparitions of Mary near Mexico City in 1531. Espinoza often places fresh flowers near his several Mary figurines – including a concrete Virgin of Guadalupe sculpture enshrined in a vertical bathtub across from the castle.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #86