The artist Dos Diablos

Expressionist oil painter Dos Diablos tirelessly populates his canvases with stirring creatures. It’s impossible to encounter his work without experiencing a visceral gut-punch reaction.

His beings raise consciousness about how limited our perception of physical beauty is as well as our knee-jerk tendency to equate unattractiveness to corruption.

In this age where we are facing great enemies both seen and unseen, his challenge to find empathy for different looking beings becomes more relevant than ever.

Dos Diablos births his creatures in Guadalajara, Mexico. Though they are our neighbors to the south, it occurred to me that I’d seen scant news coverage about how Mexico has been faring against the pandemic. I reached out to Dos Diablos to learn a little more about what his life is like right now.

You live in Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico. How has your daily life changed since the spread of Covid 19? Are you in quarantine?

Indeed, we are in quarantine that extends from time to time. I think it is the same everywhere.

I haven’t been affected by the confinement (yet), In a way it is very similar to how I usually live, I hardly go out much. The only thing is just the fact that I can’t visit family and friends. I enjoy socializing in person, I’m not the type of people who enjoy online calls, feels weird, robotic, but I have come to find some pleasure in these calls.

Mr. Franklin oil on gessoed paper by Dos Diablos

What is life like in Guadalajara right now? Are most people staying home? Are public places closed? Are there shortages?

For me, a person who work from home, is almost the same. Generally, the city is empty in some places, places with congregations of people, are closed (bars, movie theaters, etc).

But, a lot of people didn’t care, a huge part of the people don’t believe that this is real, they continue to carry on their normal life, holding reunions… this quarantine time is taken as vacations for some, they go to the beach with the whole family.

I know there are many who do have an idea about the situation, but they didn’t care, some of them are covered with the “blood of christ” that protects them, true case. I see them as selfish people.

There’s a lot of toilet paper and all the groceries now, but… Believe it or not, there is a shortage of beer, and with this you can see the degree of anxiety that the people are suffering.

A story on ABC News on April 23 stated that drug cartels, including El Chapo’s family, have been handing out food and provisions to the public. In the article Gerardo Rodríguez, professor of national security at the University of the Americas Puebla, said that this erodes the power of the state because people end up supporting the cartels for helping them. Have you seen evidence of this and do you have an opinion about it? Does it matter where the help comes from?

In certain places it is very normal for the Narco to support and help people with difficult situations.

I never see the narco help in person.

I know about the case of the “El Chapo” family who was helping people. I understand the people who accept it, if you are in a desperate situation you will not care where the help comes from, you want to continue living and feeding your family.

What seems miserable to me is that this whole crisis be politicized as a campaign platform. But also that with these charity samples the Narco is glorified, which is already idolized, and even more now with all the movies and series they are seen as heroes, but it is the same with the entire culture of glorification of the serial killer in United States.

Untitled IIII oil on Aluminum by Dos Diablos

The only other story I found in the American media about Guadalajara recently stated that medical workers have been attacked due to fears that they’re spreading the virus in several parts of Mexico including Guadalajara. While the articles I found explained that these were isolated incidents and not widespread, medical workers were quoted as saying they felt afraid to be in scrubs in public and in fact some hospitals banned medical workers from wearing scrubs outside. Are you aware of these attacks on healthcare workers? Obviously hatred and fear is not a problem unique to your city or country, but do you have any idea about what is motivating people to lash out?

It is something that embarrasses me and makes me powerless to know that there are people outside doing this, I know that it is fear that drives them to do this, but also the ignorance that they don’t realize the great work that the medical personnel are doing.

But what can I tell you, many people in this city don’t believe in the virus, but many assure that homosexuality if acquired as a “virus”, is not a joke, many people believe in it, young and old.

All medical personnel are very brave people, they face something invisible that attacks them from all sides, and even then, they are risking their health and their lives. I hope that like the soldiers, when you see the medical staff, thank them for their service.

You are an oil painter. Has your creative process been affected during this time? Are you making art? If you are making art, what have you been working on?

Yes I am [making art]. I don’t know yet, and I can’t say if this [will] affect my work, it is too soon. But I can assure you that somehow it will, those of us who are dedicated to creativity are more receptive and if this situation lasts for the rest of the year, it will be interesting to see the progress of the works.

I have been organizing more about my work process, I’m reading and watching many movies/series, I know that many take it as fun (and it is), but for me it is visual food … I have also been painting old ideas and finishing abandoned paintings.

I also went back to painting real person faces in acrylic, this is just a personal and practical project, I doubt that I will publish it on social media, this paintings have nothing to do with my creatures, they are mere warm-ups and color exercises.

Krampus Portrait oil on gessoed paper by Dos Diablos

You are known for expressionistic paintings of creatures that many people refer to as monsters. I get the sense that you do not like that word for them. Why don’t you call them monsters? And how would you describe your entities?

It is not that I don’t like to call them monsters, but it does not bother me that people call them or refer to them, “Monster” it is a beautiful word, but I don’t see them as such.

For me they are very nice beings (some of them) and I identify with a lot of them, each painting has the energy of how I feel at that moment, they are pure feeling, they are my children, some sad, happy, others angry and frustrated. But like children, you can see your children as beautiful beings, but, for other people, they are damn monsters.

Your process is very instinctual. Do you feel that you are manifesting these entities into the world? Why are you the portal through which they enter? And have you been channeling different energies during the pandemic?

A lot of my work is instinctive, and I hope that some creatures are manifesting out there, and that you see them as such, impossible beings who can appear and disappear at any time.

I think that behind me there is a long line full of entities waiting in anxiety to make themselves, because of one thing I’m sure, is that paint as a creative substance, that only uses us as a vehicle to do whatever it wants.

If different energies have arisen but it is still too early to know. As I mentioned before, if this situation of confinement lasts the whole year, we will be able to see the stages of the paintings, the most interesting part will be at the end of the year and what will come out next 2021.

Are you reflecting on current events in your creative work? For example have you created any figures inspired by the pandemic?

No, I’ll try not going to do anything about the virus as such, maybe I take time to reflect it, but I will not take resources such as the face masks or the form of the virus, which is an interesting shape.

These resources are very obvious to me, you don’t let the viewer think on the painting, using those elements you leave the painting solved. But I don’t plan to do it soon, people are tired and anxious to consume everything about the virus.

De Profundis oil on panel by Dos Diablos

So many of the faces you paint are textured with puckering, melty smears and boils that are reminiscent of leprosy and plague buboes. Do you study reference photos of diseased bodies? Do you feel inspired by the physical qualities of diseases and what do these deformities signify in your work?

I never did study reference photo diseases. I have a visual repertoire in my memory. I worked in a newspaper where we show explicit pictures of the drug wars, were shown without censorship.

I can only tell you that I saw everything, injuries of all kinds to all kinds of people of any age and sex. This affected me, and affects me from time to time, that is why I don’t like add any blood to my paintings, I try to represent them as studies of anatomy.

But more than anything those bumps and shapes you mention are more internal sensations represented in raw.

What role (if any) does art and the artist have at a time of crisis?

Sure, Art is resistance. It is what it gives us, and it is going to give that breath of hope and humanity that at this moment is very fragile.

The art is bigger than this situation, the Art is not an escape, it is a reality to what is happening.

And I’m not saying it for what I panting, but for the Art that I see every day that pushes me to continue despite all the obstacles that are presented to us. If my paintings can take someone to that mental place, I know I have succeeded.

The figures you paint may not be evil, but why do you think some people respond to them with fear? There is so much monstrous behavior in the world. Why do we think monsters should look like the faces in your portraits, and not like regular human beings?

As they are portraits of emotions, some people who do not feel good contemplating my paintings, it is because of fear, because they see themselves in the paintings, it can be horrifying to see how you are.

Sometimes a “normal” human being can be more monstrous than any of my creatures, just search on Twitter “POTUS” and you will know what I mean.

Annibal oil on gessoed paper by Dos Diablos

Are there any supplies or tools that you rely on or would like to have but are currently struggling to get?

Thankfully I’m an art supply “prepper”, and for now I have what I need to work through the summer with no problems.

What kind of art have you been consuming and why? Is this different than what you typically consume?

Yes, I have started to read a lot of incredible horror manga, especially from Junji Ito.

Did you have any planned showcases that have been postponed or cancelled? Or were there any shows that you were looking forward to attending?

There are some that were postponed and one in NY was canceled. But I understand the crisis that NY is going through right now.

I also had in mind to go to “Monsterpalooza” to see good friends and enjoy the creations they show every year.

Has your financial situation been affected by the spread of Covid-19?

Who doesn’t, but the best we can do is keep working, have fun doing quality works and supporting each other.

What can we do to support your work at this time?

Recommending and sharing my work on social networks, so that my creature can find the right person.

Thank you so much to Dos Diablos for answering my questions.

To see more of Dos Diablos work follow him on Instagram.

Original paintings by Dos Diablos are available for sale through Copro Gallery, La Luz de Jesus, Gallery Nucleus, Beinart Gallery, Booth Gallery, and Dark Art Emporium.

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