Every artist has a preferred medium, and Vincent Castiglia’s happens to be human blood. In fact, for the past 12 years, that’s all he’s used to create his monochromatic, sepulchral paintings of haunting figures, crucifixes and skulls. The 33-year-old Brooklyn-based artist has painted for Margaret Cho (with her blood), hosted a solo exhibit at H.R. Giger’s museum in Switzerland, and will be the subject of a Kickstarter-backed documentary by John Borowski.

Castiglia began experimenting with bodily fluids in 2000, and focused exclusively on blood three years later, searching for a way to deal with his abusive childhood. “I was seeking a ‘release’ from what was happening in my life and inside of me, and using blood served this purpose so perfectly and completely. A pain was involved, and blood issued, but something beautiful and true was born,” he says. The implication, of course, is that his art evolved from self-harm, but that’s not how he sees it. “I wouldn’t consider it harming myself,” he says. “I’d liken it to psycho-spiritual surgery.”

“[My blood is] collected intravenously,” he says, explaining the work that goes into creating his special paint. “It’s collected into vacu-container tubes such as you would use when giving blood for a blood test, and I usually collect about 15 tubes at a time.” He refrigerates them and then works from the batches, maintaining 5 different consistencies ranging from “straight opaque blood” to watered down blood. “I feel like collecting the blood is just as much of a rite in working with it as in painting with it.”

Though it’s certainly what’s made him famous, the blood isn’t a gimmick. He says that, when he first started showing his work, he’d rarely mention the controversial medium because he didn’t want it to overshadow the intricate art pieces themselves. “The imagery is still what it is,” he says, “And I don’t feel like it should compete. They’re essentially two separate things we’re talking about.”

Recently, however, he’s been considering how much the medium reflects his life. “My reality, my physical reality is so different, I means it’s 180 [degrees] different from a former life I used to know. And I came to question: do I need to? Is the necessity there anymore?”

He has decided, however, that regardless of his circumstances, “The body of work in its totality represents the progress of my human experience.”

“I would feel like I were lying if I worked in another medium because this is what so fully committed to, and connected with,” he says.

(Video: Ilie Mitaru/ANIMALNewYork)
(Images: Vincent Castiglia)