Screen Reviews
Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia

Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia

directed by John Borowski

starring Vincent Castiglia, Margaret Cho, Gary Holt

John Borowski/Waterfront Productions

If you’re a normal suburb dweller living in a gated community, just looking at Vincent Castiglia will probably freak you out. He’s a heavily tattooed man with a shaved head looking like a descendant of Anton Lavey. Bloodlines introduces Vincent in his studio, explaining his method of working. It’s art geek stuff about who makes the paper, what kind of brushes he uses and how he prepares his blood to achieve effects on paper. Vincent paints using his own blood. I like this introduction because it sets up Vincent as a talented person with who takes his work very seriously. So you know that Castiglia has something to share before we get into his personal and artistic story.

The film takes a non-linear approach to telling Vincent’s story. It can be confusing at times, but it is a good way to side-step the real life tragedy, pain and horrors that could easily overshadow the purpose of the film, Vincent Castiglia’s art. The stories of his bizarre childhood, the physical and emotional traumas and his recurring bouts of drug addiction are told. The stories of personal horrors entwine with stories of his art and its meaning to Castiglia and the collectors who own his works.

Using blood as his medium gives Vincent Castiglia’s work the feel of Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook sketches. Both the ink Da Vinci used and the blood Castiglia uses have iron oxide as their main pigment. The images are cast in shades of brown. His subject matter has the precise anatomical detail of Da Vinci’s sketches as filtered through the nightmare landscape of H.R. Gigier. His subjects explore the transition between life and death, health and decay, the physical world and whatever exists beyond. We first see Vincent Castilia’s work on display at H.R. Giger’s museum in Switzerland.

The film takes a look at the meaning people give his work. The owner of “Feeding,” (an image of a decaying woman feeding a baby while confined to a wheel chair) is a paraplegic man who sees his struggles in the painting. The singer for the band Triptykon talks about how they commissioned Vincent to do their album cover and how Castiglia talked to each member to get a feeling for who they are. The finished work includes occult seals for each member, which combines to form a larger sigil for the band. Margaret Cho talks about contributing blood for a commissioned portrait. Gary Holt of Slayer tells how his guitar customize by Castiglia has Holt’s own DNA in the blood.

Bloodlines is a fascinating film, and Vincent Castiglia is a fascinating person on an unbelievably strange journey.

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