(UPDATE: This original artwork was for sale today — and it sold in less than an hour. WOW. Thank you and congratulations to author Mark Van Name for scoring this for his collection. Most importantly, we’ve chosen to donate a portion of the proceeds to Mexican earthquake relief, and are now deciding which charitable conduit is best. NEXT: I’ll have FIVE previously not-for-sale Loteria original artworks available for purchase, with portions of proceeds going to further help victims of recent natural disaster in Houston, Florida, the Islands and Mexico.)


Like many of you, I’ve been trying to do my part to help Houstonians devastated by Hurricane Harvey, as well as Floridians and Islanders impacted by Hurricane Irma. The Mexican Earthquake victims have not left my daily attention, since that massive 8.1 earthquake struck on September 7th. They need our help there, even as they’ve been heroically offering their own relief assistance to the United States.

Sixteen years ago this week, Americans felt compelled to rally around our own. Whenever I look at this piece of original art, I think of 9/11. I had become a fulltime professional illustrator in April of that year, resigning my job in the residential architecture field. More than anything in the world, I wanted to be a professional sf/f book cover artist. It was a heady time. I was slowly building a pro art career, as publishing clients were beginning to take notice of my early cover and magazine work. That morning, I was sketching ideas for the cover of Brian Hodge’s collection Lies and Ugliness. The phone rang, and I heard my mother’s voice, “Are you watching?

“TV’s not on.”

“A plane crashed into the World Trade Center. It’s on fire.”

Oh my god. What channel?”

All of them,” she said.

“OK. Love you. Bye.”

I watched a towering grey cloud billow across a field of blue, as my drawing hand went buzzy and tingly — and then the second plane hit. I don’t remember any work after that. What I do know is this cover idea was born on that terrible day because one of the morning’s thumbnails eventually evolved into the final artwork you see here. I’ve always called this artwork “Lies and Ugliness” because that’s the name of the book it illustrated, but those words and their synchronicity resonate more profoundly as years unfold.

In those fledgling days, I was experimenting across a wide range of media. I still have people ask me, “When are you going to do another shadowbox assemblage cover?” This cover was one of those, and the answer is “not anytime soon” because these were so time-consuming. I did my assemblage covers by hand, with traditional media. The drawing and painting wasn’t the time-consuming part. It was the search for found objects, the construction, and then the careful installation of the pieces. It added an uncertainty and vitality that was incredibly fun, but not the most efficient process either. I was learning lessons and working through my influences at that time — Cornell, McKean, Bantock, Rauschenberg, and so on.

In my 2006 art book Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio, I shared what I thought about the manuscript, and what I was thinking when I did this artwork, “Upon closer study, there was a common denominator: the exploration of faith and sexuality and their effects on the mundane and epic — especially their effects on the perception of the ‘truth’. In many of the stories, Hodge almost seemed to relish in the violent ideological collisions between the pagan and the Christian. There’s a mad love of ritual….”

I also described how the original was created. “I drew and painted the Christ figure in mixed media on masonite, and then positioned it into a homemade wooden box that was built and painted proportionally to the cover dimension. The gargoyle is a a found object that I carved, textured and painted to make it more fearsome. After carefully melding the painting and the gargoyle, the two were surrounded with silk roses, which I painted and touched up individually by hand to make them look just right.”

So here we are — sixteen years later — and I’d like to use this original artwork to help people in need, as best I can. I’m donating 10% of the proceeds from this one to the food bank or relief charity of the buyer’s choice. I’m also pricing this original lower so that it gives the best chance for a donation to occur. For example, my Loteria original graphite drawings (11″ x 18″) currently sell in the $5000 range, so the price listed below for this early shadowbox original is a rare bargain for my stuff — and these shadowbox originals almost never become available. 🙂

Dimensions: 12.5″ wide x 19″ high x 2.5″ deep

Weight: 7 lbs. (before shipping)

Price: Only $1500 (includes free shipping within the continental United States / please add $100 for shipping outside of the United States)

Contact: john (at) johnpicacio (dot) com — Email me with the subject line “Lies and Ugliness”. First come, first serve. We’ll exchange emails and I’ll give the payment contact info so that we can finalize the sale via Paypal. I’ll then donate to your favorite food bank or relief charity — and ship your artwork to you.

Good luck, all!