"Enigmas of birth and death"

(Birthday Cake/ Mausoleum)


I recently found a photo of my fourth birthday party. In the frame I am standing still next to a piñata of Donald Duck. In Venezuelan birthday traditions, you choose your “idol” to be the center of your celebration only to later violently destroy it and collect the candy from within. In the photograph, one can see that Donald and I are the same height. I am also wearing a shirt with his image. I now see the irony of having chosen a duck, the derogatory term – “pato” – for homosexual in my country, as the birthday idol of my childhood. When I saw this photo it allowed me access, not only to this specific memory, but also to its multilayered, symbolic meaning. My body was an extension of my piñata: I had to publicly destroy myself in front of my friends and family.

Hand molded ceramic 8inx8inx8in.

"There is no notion or representation of death in the unconscious"(Milk Virgin)


From the performer (Jorge Clar):


On the morning of José and Jessica's opening at Cooper Union, I suddenly felt a little overwhelmed about what I was going to do, but then quieted down by thinking of the idea of holding a sense of center. I felt comforted by the gesture of having had a room built for me, where I could have a private moment in public. Milk is my favorite beverage, once I've loved since I was a child, and how fun I thought to be sitting in a milky pool. I arrived early and took my clothes off, putting them on a customized shower rack. Nearby was a poem I had written in gesso on a unicorn fabric. The room was beautiful, collaged walls in bright patterns turning into tropical tapestry. There were objects that felt like offerings nearby. I stepped into the pool and the milky water was cold; so I stood in the middle and got adjusted to the temperature. I walked around in circles, near the perimeter to keep warm, the outside world diffused by a  clear plastic shower curtain. I felt like I was in a spaceship flying through space, tranquil and cozy. People beyond the curtain took pictures as in a dream; and I felt protected and reborn in my body.

"There is no notion or representation of ------ death in the unconscious"

"Christ chose the donkey" (La Burriquita)


Left: Ceramic Relic, Right: Rear View.

La Burriquita is a Venezuelan folk dance originally performed by a man dressed up as a woman riding a donkey. The Spaniards first introduced the tradition (tied to Christianity and meant to be evangelic) circa 1800 in Cubagua island; where it morphed into a masked pagan form thanks to African and native influences. The tradition is ambivalent. It caricatures a male body embodying feminine attributes: rearticulating machista constructs of gender identity; while it parades it around town: giving this expression visibility and articulating a form of queer folklore. I imported this local tradition into the gay capital of the world (San Francisco) during Halloween’s eve, bringing this tradition back from the death and simultaneously reclaiming its gay identity: steeped in contextual pride and historical shame.

10/31/2014 "La Burriquita on bart from West Oakland to Castro"

Left: Parading the costume in San Francisco's  Castro.

Right: Costume Displayed at Worth Ryder Gallery at U.C Berkeley.

"Epitaph to the flame"(a cloud temple)


Spiral Dance (Maypole/El Sebucan)


Hanging rotating sculpture.Hand molded ceramic maypole + 5 dancing characters,spray paint, fabrics, used wigs, artificial flowers, l.e.ds, fake fur, peruvian butterflies, plastic butterflies...


May Pole/ El Sebucan


El Sebucán is a traditional Venezuelan dance in which dancers perform circle dances around a tall pole with colorful ribbons attached. The dancers intertwine their ribbons either in a web around the pole or to plait it to the pole, itself. Although rarely mentioned back home, this tradition is an appropriation of Germanic pagan fertility rituals that have been rearticulated by very different cultures to formulate new ways of engaging with the world. In America, Radical Faeries have borrowed this maypole ritual (Beltane) reconnecting it back to its pagan roots, the regenerative power of degradation and the cult to mother earth.


Gay Spirituality is not singular, but plural, and suggests a loose cluster of beliefs.


The figures

Untitled (Hummingbird temple)


Untitled (Hummingbird Temple)

11 in x 11 in x 17 in


Ceramic, hummingbird ashes, kratum, styrofoam, diorama trees

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Things that feed my practice: Building ethnographies, time collapsing,scale shifting, memory through drawing and observation, surveillance, hyper reality, fairs, consumption, sites of devotion, fake promises, the past, seasons, birthdays, Christmas, altars, architecture, temples, mathematical systems, mascot costumes, bathhouses, thresholds, faith, belief, food, the Golden Gate Bridge, Disco Music, Folk sensibilities…



© 2016 JoseJoaquinFigueroa