Beneath the surface lies a carefully crafted visual metaphor, a subtle, enigmatic political commentary on the birth of a nation.
The newborn child is in a manger on the floor between his parents. Mary wears red robes with a blue veil as she knits a small piece of white cloth. Above her head shines a single, six pointed, star. Joseph holds a file and a sickle. A hammer lies at his feet. A pitchfork, ceramic vessels and a heavily laden beast of burden imply agricultural toil and industrial production.
Mary's face is calm, her expression serene. The infant lies vulnerable at her feet. Mary's blood red skirt flows between her legs symbolizing the long and difficult birth of the new Cuba. The man with his tools and his politics is focused on his work. Mary and the child are radiant, luminescent, portending a bright and hopeful future for the nascent nation.
Gattorno’s “La Navidad” poses symbolic, metaphorical questions of a political and social nature.
Will the newly born child be clad in the red, white and blue ideals of capitalist freedom as knitted together by the mother of democracy? Or will the infant bear the tools of collective labor under the yoke of its ideological father the communist state?
Gattorno, always a shrewd and calculating man, was more pragmatic than he was idealistic. The answers to those questions were not as important to him as was the painting asking them. He was far more interested in art than in politics.
Gattorno considered politics and popular culture, religion and spirituality as nothing less than ideal sources of subject matter. If they happened to enhance the social and historic value of his works, so be it.
He chose to eschew political activity, social reform or religious debate, devoting himself instead to gathering and arranging elements of the natural world, combining them with talent to explore, evolve and express his own unique artistic vision.
Gattorno steadfastly maintained his creative integrity even at the cost of commercial success. Evidence of this devotion to his painterly principles is the substantial body of work he produced over the course of a career that spanned more than half a century.
Primitive, surreal or symbolic the life and work of Antonio Gattorno remain versatile, innovative and enigmatic.