Those who are worthy of being loved
Lia D Castro’s deeply personal paintings serve as a window into the realities of those who are marginalized by mainstream society. Her work is confrontational, demanding that the viewer bear witness to the stories being told. Castro’s use of real people from her personal life as models and examples further illuminates how societal norms manifest in our world.
Those who are worthy of being loved, the artist’s first solo exhibition in Europe, speaks to Lia’s belief that everyone deserves love, even in politically conservative environments, and features three distinct series of works that explore complex and often taboo subjects related to race, identity, community, and capitalist structures.
Lia’s work is a powerful exploration of social and political issues through art, emphasizing the importance of representation, healing, and inclusivity. She is committed to using her art to educate audiences on topics such as anti-racism and anti-transphobia in various institutions, including museums, art institutions, and national and multinational companies. Her project Seus filhos também praticam (Your Children Also Do It) maps the behaviors of middle-class and upper-middle-class white men aged between 18-25 who identify as straight cisgender through sex work.
The first series of Lia D Castro’s exhibition, titled Axs Nossxs Filhxs (To Our Children) is a deeply intimate and thought-provoking exploration of the lives of young men, viewed through the lens of sex work. In these paintings, Lia depicts herself and her clients engaging in an unconventional but tender act of bonding, as the clients lay on her lap while she reads socially critical literature to them. Through her art, Lia provides a poignant commentary on the lives of young straight men who engage in prostitution, and the societal norms and expectations that contribute to their behavior.
Despite the taboo nature of the subject matter, Lia D Castro’s depictions are not salacious or exploitative; rather, they are gentle and domestic, conveying a sense of intimacy and vulnerability. The works are signed by the client and accompanied by their favorite quotes from theoretical books they have read together, which further emphasizes the intellectual and personal connection that Lia shares with them.
Although the men in her paintings are faceless or turned away from the camera, their first names are always stated in the work’s name, revealing a piece of their identity that they are so desperately trying to hide. Castro’s art is a testament to the power of representation and the importance of giving voice to those who are often silenced. By highlighting the experiences of those who exist on the margins of society, she challenges us to confront our own biases and prejudices and to strive for a more just and inclusive world.
Overall, the two series are a masterful example of how art can be used to confront and challenge deeply ingrained societal norms and expectations. Lia invites viewers to reflect on the complex intersections of privilege, power, and vulnerability, and to consider the ways in which societal structures contribute to the experiences of individuals at the margins of society.
In Lia D Castro’s work, there is a palpable sense of intimacy and tenderness that pervades even her most challenging subject matter. This is particularly evident in the second series of paintings A Travessia do Rubicão (Crossing the Rubicon). These works, rendered in black and white, depict a single colorful flower alongside a nude portrait of the artist herself. Measuring just 20 x 30 cm each, these small-scale still lifes provide a powerful reflection on the lifespan of a trans individual in Brazil.
Despite the weighty subject matter, Lia’s approach to the still life genre is gentle and domestic in tone. The works radiate a sense of calm and tranquility, with each flower and portrait positioned in a way that feels natural and unforced. The use of black and white adds a timeless quality to the paintings, lending them a sense of universality that transcends the specific context of their creation.
As viewers move from painting to painting in the series, they are invited to contemplate the physical and mental transformation that accompanies hormone therapy. The bright, vivid colors of the flowers serve as a counterpoint to the muted tones of the portraits, creating a sense of balance and harmony in the compositions. These works are a poignant reminder that even in the face of adversity, life can be beautiful and worth celebrating.
In this sense, Lia’s series can be seen as a form of memento mori, a reminder of the fragility and fleeting nature of life. But unlike traditional memento mori paintings, which often focus on themes of death and decay, Lia’s works represent and celebrate life in all its complexity and diversity. In this way, they serve as a powerful statement of resilience and hope, a testament to the transformative power of art to heal and inspire.
The third series on view is a powerful commentary on the impact of western colonialism on cultural and art historical practices and norms. This series was produced on-site in Brussels, where Lia purchased existing landscape paintings and painted her own feet on them, effectively inserting her own body into the composition.
Lia’s work emphasizes the legitimacy of the black body in art, which has been historically marginalized and excluded from mainstream art movements. By stepping on these classical paintings, Lia confronts the viewer with the ongoing impact of western colonialism and the need to rethink dominant narratives in art history.
The act of stepping on the paintings can also be seen as a reclaiming of space, as Lia inserts her own body onto a canvas that has historically been dominated by white, Eurocentric representations of landscapes. The act of painting her own feet on these landscapes serves to disrupt and challenge the traditional view of landscapes as passive, unchanging, and uninhabited, and highlights the importance of representing diverse perspectives in art.
Through this series, Lia invites the viewer to reconsider how western colonialism has shaped our understanding of art and the world around us. By disrupting and subverting traditional representations of landscapes, Lia challenges us to question the dominant narratives that have been perpetuated throughout art history and to create space for alternative perspectives and voices. This is a powerful and important contribution to contemporary art, and one that challenges us to confront our own biases and assumptions. Castro’s work is deeply personal and provides a window into the lives of those who exist on the fringes of society. The people she portrays are often those who are struggling to find their place in a world that refuses to accept them.
The presence of surgical tape on the paintings serves as a powerful metaphor to physical and emotional harm and healing as a result of societal norms and expectations experienced by these individuals.
Through her work, Castro confronts the viewer with the uncomfortable reality of a world that often forces individuals to hide their true selves. By casting forbidden glances into these deeply personal spaces and catching the portrayed characters in these intimate positions, she challenges us to consider our own role in perpetuating systems of oppression and exclusion. Ultimately, Lia D Castro’s artwork is a powerful call to action, urging us to work towards a more just and equitable world for all.