Lives I’ve Known

by Armando Sebastian, Ally

Armando Sebastian was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico where he pursued a career at the University of Nuevo León. Sebastian is a self-taught artist and most of his learning came from poring over hundreds of volumes of art books. Being drawn to the Surrealist art movement, religious imagery, and Ex Votos, a type of Mexican artistic religious iconography, Sebastian implements symbolic meaning and dimension in his work. He most closely identifies with the genre of magical realism.

While Sebastian is HIV-negative, all of his subjects pictured today are HIV-positive. The subjects have had a lasting impact on Sebastian and the friendships have lasted. Some of his subjects are still living and some are deceased; however, all of their stories live on through Sebastian’s work.

Artist Website:

Lágrimas de Cristal

Abridged Lyrics from the Painting are from Morrissey’s “Seasick, Yet Still Docked” and read:

I am a poor
freezingly cold soul
so far from where I’m
intended to go, I wish I had
the charm to attract the one
I love. There is no way I got
no charm. But you see I’ve got
no charm. Tonight, I’ve consumed
much more than I can hold
Oh this is very clear to you
you can tell by the way I sleep all day
and all of my life no one gave me anything
No one has ever given me anything
My love is as sharp as a needle in your eye
you must be such a fool to pass me by

Artist Statement:

As tears fall from the figure’s eyes, they turn into diamonds. In the background, you see a large sculpture seemingly made of the diamond tears which serves as a reminder that there is still beauty in pain and that there is someone special to share your life with. This is a story about how a boy felt after being diagnosed with HIV and how his relationships changed after he would reveal his status to them. I always felt heartbroken to know that someone would prefer not to be with someone that is HIV-Positive. I remember being there for him for any hard situation after he would let them know. Sadly, he would remain single for many years to come.

I think the fact we were in Mexico in the late 90s when there was still so much taboo around HIV. Lots of people needed to be educated on HIV and the culture played a big part of it.
I wanted to create something showing for those rough years when to me his tears falling on my shoulder were diamonds. I created the fantasy that I would build sculptures of diamonds out of his tears while listening to Morrissey’s song “Seasick, Yet Still Docked.”

PS: I’m happy to say that my friend is happily married and living on the beaches of South Mexico.

Velis Nolis (Want it or Not)

Artist Statement:

The painting is inspired by my friend’s journey from when he was first diagnosed HIV-positive back in 2007. We have been friends since 2000 when we met in Monterrey, Mexico. I have always admired his philosophy of life; he always sees the positive side of things and finds a lesson in every problem. He uses he/him pronouns but he has created this alter ego gender-fluid character that later became a drag persona named “Pancha Tequila”. He is also a Contemporary Art performer and uses this media to protest for feminism, and against homophobia and transphobia, among other themes. 

Pancha Tequila performs mainly in Cafes, Federal Buildings, Plazas and on the streets of Malaga, Spain.

In this painting, I wanted to capture his spirit. There is a saying “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade” He really found his way and overcame many battles throughout his life since being diagnosed with HIV. He has been dealing with health problems in the last couple of years; but overall, he has always been a strong human being. I wanted to pay a little homage to our friendship and to him.

Día a Día / Formulas of Love

Artist Statement:

I used to spend many summer evenings walking on the streets of downtown Monterrey with one of my best friends. He was elegant, articulated and beautiful. I remember one time he told me that he needed to talk to me about something important. We sat down on a park bench nearby and that’s when he told me he had been diagnosed with HIV. In the moment, I couldn’t say anything. I was a little bit scared, I believe. But, before I could say something he started to tell me how his life had turned around and how he felt different in many ways. He found peace with himself and that it wasn’t so bad after all.

He said: Now I sleep less but it doesn’t bother me when I close my eyes I see a bright light in front of me, very bright like Ice. I feel powerless because I know this won’t go away; all I can do is create harmony around it and follow the script. Now when I’m walking I feel a strange force on the top of my head like energy from above. It feels like a sword nailed into my brain. I stood quiet for a minute and I told him that I will be there for him, forever, no matter where, or when, or with whom he is sharing his life with. I will always be his and he will always be mine. This is my little homage to our friendship and our love story.

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