When the Satanic Temple first opened its headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts in 2016, locals didn’t seem all too concerned about the arrival of their newest neighbors. After all, over the years Salem has become a hot destination for enthusiasts of the occult due to its long association with witchcraft. The Temple’s HQ, along with the Salem Art Gallery, now occupies a 19th century Victorian house not far from the historic site where over a dozen people accused of witchcraft were executed in 1690, and the black clapboard home that once belonged to witch trials Judge Jonathan Corwin is located just down the road. “I guess we’re waiting to see what kind of art they show there,” one resident told the Boston Globe when the Temple moved in. (Outside of Salem, the Temple’s public art program has garnered attention, such as the proposal to erect a large-scale statue of Baphomet outside the Oklahoma State Capitol.) A year later, and the Temple’s gallery is indeed hosting unique artwork, even by Salem standards: paintings made with human blood.
Through April 30, the Temple is showing a mini-retrospective of work by New York-based artist Vincent Castiglia, who has gained notoriety for using his own blood to create large-scale portraits of the human figure. His sepia-toned images often feature nude bodies in various states of decomposition, accompanied by a wide spectrum of religious symbolism both Christian and Pagan. In 2016, Slayer’s Gary Holt commissioned Castiglia to paint a guitar using vials of his blood—a first for both the music and art world—and he’s created works for comedian Margaret Cho and the metal band Triptykon. Castiglia’s affinity for working with the unorthodox medium even caught the eye influential Swiss artist H.R. Giger (best known for his designs for the Alien films). In 2008, Giger invited Castiglia to be the first American to exhibit work in a solo show at his eponymous museum in Gruyères, Switzerland.
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