Art challenges observers to discern meaning and discover value; it creates imagery that entices reaction and curiosity, and when done well, art provokes thought. Because of this vague and inclusive nature, art spans an incredible spectrum of ideas and themes, limited only by each individual artist’s ability to convey their meaning. Even so, that meaning is something different in the eye of each beholder – and that versatility is the beauty of art.
Who better to portray that than an artist enamored with visual illusions and tricks – making one thing seem like several from different distances and angles. Metamorphic art, as it’s called, is the specialty of child prodigy Octavio Ocampo, a prolific artist who’s works has stunned thousands, if not millions of observers, and has become an icon at the forefront of the Mexican art scene.
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Born on February 28th, 1943 in Celaya, Mexico, Ocampo was the offspring of an already artistically-inclined family. Art was a part of his childhood, and of himself – he studied it and worked on painting and sculpting predominantly, producing props and works for festivities and church duties. He dabbled in music and even dancing, but eventually decided in the ‘70s that painting and sculpting were his calling.
It was since then that he has employed and become famous for his surrealist metamorphic style, which works by superimposing and combining various figures to create a larger image. The realism in his paintings is what makes them so fascinating, as you can often miss either the bigger picture or the smaller details. His artworks unfold more the longer you stare at them – what looks like a portrait of Jesus will, within minutes, reveal itself to be a scene painting of several hooded men and women, sitting and holding feathers.
But, his paintings aren’t solely devoted to religious imagery – whether Christian, Hindu, or Greek – but also contemporary works. With his talents, he’s created commissioned paintings of celebrities like Jane Fonda, Cher, Cesar Chavez, and former US President Jimmy Carter. He’s also done paintings of Marlon Brando, Marylin Monroe and the Mona Lisa in his own style.
But no matter what artistic subject Ocampo decides to tackle, in the end his work always reflects the playful nature of his curiosity with creating diversity in his “illusion art,” with visual deceit – both on canvas and in his mural work, adorning the walls of buildings like the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, and the walls in the Presidencia Municipal and the Institute of Technology in Celaya, Mexico.
Ocampo lives in Tepoztlan, the mythical birthplace of the Aztec’s chief sun god, Quetzalcoatl. He remains one of the most prolific producers of Mexican art today.
Mexican Art by Octavio Ocampo
Take a look at more of his work here.