VICTOR COBO

Artist Statement

Shadows Onto Film

When I was four years old my parents went through a torturous divorce. My father had been using all manner of drugs including heroin and was an acute alcoholic as well. The relationship had been abusive, often to the point of serious violence and finally my mother had no choice but to flee with me.

Eventually my father sobered up and retreated back home to a remote area of the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky. By then he was suffering from severe psychotic depression and schizophrenia. His dementia had reached the point where he heard voices and was too paranoid to talk on the phone. Sadly, he is now so sick and delusional that he thinks nothing is wrong with him, that all the world’s evil and malice lie outside of him. He is a bitter and eccentric recluse who refuses to receive treatment, let alone be diagnosed.

As a child I was sent to visit him during summer breaks from school. Each day he would insist that we go out and take photographs of each other. Years later I realized that the pictures he was making were illustrations of an imaginary relationship with me that he had created in his mind.

The last time I saw him was thirteen years ago in 2000. His mother had passed away and I had gone to her funeral in Manchester, Kentucky. To my surprise I discovered that he had devoted an entire wall in his home to “our” imaginary relationship. There were hundreds of the pictures of us together during summers from the late 70's into the early 90's. It was his secret shrine, hidden away from the rest of the world. In most of the pictures I am not smiling: proof that even at an early age I did not trust that the “relationship” they depicted was in any way real. The pictures were fiction.

Much of my work stems from these strained, unnatural years. In many ways the private universe that reveals itself in my work is my own mechanism of escape. Be the imagery shining bright, or intrinsically dark, my father is there. His shadow is on me for all time. As much as it is difficult to admit to myself, I know that I am like him. There is a sense of isolation, of 'outsiderness', and an omnipresent anxiety about the inevitable: death. Thus has photography become my therapy. I am intrigued and exhilarated by dark fantasies, life's morbid curiosities and the mystery of reality decaying into the surreal. Transfixed. My father’s gifts are an ambiguous burden of vast weight. They are what I have; what has me.

- Victor Cobo