Juan Gonzalez was born in Camaguey, Cuba in 1942 and died in 1992. He received his M.F.A. from the University of Miami, Florida.
Dreamscapes: The Art of Juan Gonzalez, by Irene McManus, published by Hudson Hills Press in 1993, is a complete monograph on the artist’s work.
In Gonzalez’s piece Naciemento, we see the artist’s love of art history in all its glory. McManus writes in her book, “Nacimiento/ Nativity was created, like most of the early works, with the aid of a jeweler’s lamp and magnifying glass. Gonzalez spent well over a month working obsessively on his mother’s face alone, ‘trying to get at some psychological truth about my relationship with her. I just couldn’t let go until I felt I had that, even though the face is so tiny.’ This was his first and last portrait of her.
“Meanwhile, smaller, more distant, and older, the artist’s father, painted from a photograph taken much closer to the time when Gonzalez made this work, muses complacently over his Good Shepherd crook, or crozier, here modeled on a device for extinguishing candles in church. The howling infant in this strange nativity—the artist’s symbol of the human condition—is ignored by all, with the exception of the red-socked, bare-chested man standing next to Gonzalez’s father… The adult artist himself, garbed in baptismal white, is viewed from behind, surveying the lost Cuban landscape of his past.
“He is also the young man standing at the front of the stage, concealed from his family by a curtain of Mantegna gold, a veil that might theoretically be drawn at will across this theater of bittersweet memory. The young artist doffs his shirt ‘like a snake shedding his skin,’ according to Gonzalez—expressing the old life cast off, the new life embraced.
“Setting a seal of liberation over this miniaturized interior are a flamboyantly colored tropical parrot flying free in the sky overhead and a pair of fiery wings emblazoned in the top center of the wooden box—the sign of the Holy Ghost.”