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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.


“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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