Eccentricity or ingenuity? ‘Jesus’ Castle’ let’s viewer decide, Durango Herald, Feb. 29, 2008

Antonito resident Cano is building a castle to honor Jesus

In 1980, Cano (like Chicano, the artist explains, a name given to him by his niece) decided to make a little building for Jesus, possibly like a castle in Antonito. More than 20 years later, he is still working on his citadel. Filmmaker Eric Hopper provides a nine minute glimpse into the work of Cano, an outsider artist who built his monument from scraps and objects found at the local dump. Hopper raises the question: Is this man a crazy eccentric or an ingenious craftsman?

Cano’s castle for Jesus reminds viewers of Antoni Gaudi’s expressionistic Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona. Two cone-shaped towers rise into the sky, shaped with stone and aluminum cans, plastered with mud; these towers mark the skyline in sleepy Antonito,
Colo. Hopper’s film opens with shots of the barren town, its murals, its old neon signs, a simple church, a semi-truck passing through and then behold: Jesus’ Castle.

Cano appears on camera, disheveled, unshaven, his dark curly hair, unruly. He is wearing a yellow plastic visor, dirty blue sweat jacket, faded red sweatpants with vivid green shorts over them. Cano explains the reason for his project: “Jesus is my neighbor, and I am his servant,” he says. “I felt that working for Jesus would be a good thing. Just to give yourself a way, once you go by that concept there’s so much to discover, so much out there to open up to. That’s what it’s all about.”

His friend Ron Martinez won’t tell the filmmaker what the townspeople think of Cano, except to admit that they think what he’s doing is crazy.

“At least he does something for himself, and for his world and for his country,” Martinez defends.

Cano began by building the fence around the property in the shape of a crown. Next he made a throne for Jesus carved from wood, inlaid with marbles. The building started with a cellar and
grew to its towering height over time. Martinez says he left town, and when he returned several years later, Cano had built a castle.

Cano doesn’t call his castle art. He merely says that he sticks to what he creates. “One thing is seen and another is hearing. You see it and you hear it,” Cano says. “In the Bible, the Lord says to do his will. I might be doing his will.” What he is doing is expressing himself and his opinions. Signs around the castle lament: “Broken treaties,” “Distribute of wealth” and “vitamin m.” Two arrows came down from the sky and landed in front of the castle. One says: “Tobacco and alcohol is killing,” the other says: “Mary Jane is healing.”

“For red people and the brown people, we always use marijuana. They should never illegalized it,” Cano says.

Martinez sums up his friend’s mission: “Two towers are gone in New York, and two towers are coming up in Antonito.”

Hopper leaves the viewer with this thought; it’s the last sound from the film as we watch the castle and see the clouds rolling in the sky above.

artsjournalist@centurytel.net Leanne Goebel is a freelance arts journalist from Pagosa Springs.

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