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Miguel Machuca: Modern-Day Shaman

Miguel Machuca: Modern-Day Shaman

As a young boy in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, San Jose-based artist Miguel Machuca experienced a life-changing event. Machuca was outside playing when the jack holding up his family’s car, slipped and his father was killed, crushed by the weight of the vehicle. A month later, his entire life was uprooted as his mother made the brave decision to move her family across the border and into the United States for a better life.

“[After my father’s death,] I began kind of understanding people’s suffering and seeing visions in my head,” he says. “I guess it really impacted me. Because of that [experience], it allowed me to bring out those wicked, twisted, demented images.”

Machuca’s current body of work straddles the line between beautiful and ugly. The pieces provoke a sense of uncomfortableness and unease in its viewers, and yet, Machuca says there’s nothing nefarious about them.

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“I’m trying to say something with the technique,” he says. “I’ve always thought that everybody has this darkness inside them, but you live your life trying to reach the light – trying to enlighten yourself. You’re trying to become something. Before, I was trying to stay out of the light and now, with these pieces, what I’m saying is that I carry my darkness always. I can’t get rid of that… The darkness is me, but when I do the highlights, I’m searching for the light, and once I find it, that’s my piece.”

He describes his recent work, larger-than-life charcoal pieces with images etched using an electronic eraser, as dark romanticism – paintings “you just feel some sort of deep connection to. In a way, it’s beautiful because it’s so ugly.” And, although Machuca is still mastering the technique, he’s enjoying his current medium, although he remains open to other art styles in the future – anything he feels can propel him as an artist and cause him to evolve.

Miguel Machuca: Modern-Day Shaman

Machuca doesn’t just live his art, he dreams the images in many of his pieces, making him somewhat of a modern-day shaman, and garnering the attention of the Triton Museum of Art’s Chief Curator, Preston Metcalf.

“When I first saw Miguel’s work, he showed it to me on his iPhone after a lecture,” says Metcalf, “and I was so impressed I invited him to be in the Imagine show … After we talked awhile, and he told me that he dreams these images, that’s when I realized that he was either a shaman or would have been burned as a witch. That’s the real deal.”

In fact, Metcalf didn’t just invite Machuca to be part of the single, group show, he offered the emerging artist a solo show at the museum next year.

“My goal is to capture the audience longer and keep them there guess what [my painting] is and what it means to them,” says Machuca, adding that his Triton show will consist of 33 large canvasses. “I’m always out there trying to create something original – something that’s original for me.”

Machuca works as an applied behavior analyst for children in San Jose’s Evergreen School District and is a board member for the Heart of Chaos art collective. His solo show will be at the Triton Museum of Art, 1505 Warburton Ave., sometime in 2015.

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