The sensuous beings that populate Virgo Paraiso’s paintings are not half-birds or half-plants. Quite the contrary; they are complete and these extraordinary hybrids exist in a state of utter bliss. The worlds that Virgo creates have no boundaries between predators, preys, humans, genders, plants and geographies. Each amalgamate into one another and become paradises so luscious that we can taste them… To let one's self get lost in the details and the sensuality of Virgo’s painting is easy. His masterful brushstroke and strong technical know-how lay down a feast for the eyes. There everything bathes in a raw, yet gentle atmosphere where all of our senses awake: we smell the musky sweet perfume of the orchids; we feel the humid moss growing on trees; and we caress the silky curves of the bodies.
But to leave it at that would be a mistake. Indeed, each painting is rich in stories, philosophical layers, and symbolism where tales of transformation abound. For one, his paintings are like psychic portals. They are similar to “nereikas,” a term coined by the Huichol Indians. Nereikas are psychic points of access that enable humans to penetrate the spiritual and magic dimensions of the natural world through ritualistic initiations. Once access is gained, humans talk to animals and become one with nature. The permeability of human nature is a wonderful gift that one must cultivate as Virgo often points out and human beings are not separated from nature. In Virgo’s paintings concepts of hybridism, interconnection of worlds and permeability lavishly bloom and often refer to ancient sources ranging from the Olmec and the Greeks. But if his art contains scholarly references, its roots run deep in Virgo’s early formative years. First, Virgo was blessed with a mother with a strong and gentle feminine aura who encouraged him to explore and trust himself as a young man and artist. Like him she had a deep respect for beauty, a taste for nature and a sense of kinship with the Tarahumara Indians, their family ancestors. Additionally, she raised him to respect indigenous peoples’ beliefs and she carefully shielded him from the Judeo-Christian’s negative bent towards sexuality and its facile hierarchies between humans and nature.
Moreover, Virgo and his mother’s lives took interesting turns as they left for distant shores and lived for many years in Okinawa and Hawaii. These early moves from Northern Mexico not only exposed Virgo to exuberant natural landscapes, but in a way I also suspect that the separation from his motherland pushed him to elaborate inner landscapes of beauty. Then, Virgo’s first-hand knowledge of the jungles’ flora and fauna was further anchored through trips he made deep in the forests of other exotic lands thereafter. But to think that Virgo’s paintings are simply autobiographical is highly reductive. Indeed his work is, complex, layered and it unites varied sources ranging from poetry to world mythology, world cultures to symbolism, ancient to modern art…
As an art historian and artist myself, I must also say that if Virgo’s work is amazing, Virgo is a gem unto himself. I say so not only because of Virgo’s professional experience here in the Bay Area and abroad, but also because he is a generous human being. Entering his world, chatting with him and stepping into his studio are delightful experiences and I engage any serious collectors to do this.
On one hand, Virgo has a gift for making people feel comfortable on the other his studio is a strange mix between a cabinet of curiosities and an eccentric 19th century museum. There, visual references from botanical encyclopedias, pre-Colombian codices and numerous other sources are laid down on elegant tables. Every corner is occupied except for his wide and neatly organized worktable displaying a wide array of fine brushes and oil paints. Intricate small shelves exhibit exquisitely made miniature sculptures populated by tiny humanlike creatures that Virgo makes (yes! he is a gifted sculptor as well!)
From the walls African masks, lush gardens with birds and butterflies emerge proudly. Mantels and shelves are covered with unusual orchids and crystals while exotic phasmids1 walk about the studio eating fresh roses provided by Virgo while expertly placed decorated mirrors expand the experience ad infinitum... Exuberant bouquets of feathers throne buoyantly next to art deco pedestals displaying amorphous shaped corals that seems to germinate. In short, Virgo’s world is a banquet for the soul and his paintings are gems that remind us the ecstasy of being alive. 1Phasmids are insects that resemble sticks with a name deriving from the Greek "phasma" (ghosts), as they seem to disappear among sticks or leaves because of their uncanny camouﬂaged bodies.
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