Julio Basanta, Casa de Dios (House of God)
34 Calle de San José, Épila, Aragón, 50290, Spain
About the Artist/Site
Julio Basanta was born into a poor family in Zaragoza, Spain, and after his father abandoned him and his ten siblings, they were sent to an orphanage. Basanta later used the training he acquired there to earn his living as an independent laborer and bricklayer.
He married Luz Divina Díez, with whom he had one son and three daughters. Eventually he saved enough money to purchase a small piece of property in Épila, a village located around twenty miles from Zaragoza, where he constructed a weekend home for his family.
Basanta calls his buildings castillicos (Spanish for “little castles”), three whitewashed buildings that sport crenellated rooftops, the stern crowns of medieval military architecture, and an assortment of balustrades, projecting windows, and towers.
During 1977, a politically tumultuous year in Spain, Basanta’s brother Vicente was shot to death by a policeman for scrawling graffiti on a wall. This tragedy was revisited and compounded in 2002, when Basanta’s only son was also killed by police under unclear circumstances. The family disputed the police version of the young man’s death but the case was closed.
At least partially in response to these killings, Basanta began ornamenting his castillicos with roughly made “gods” and “demons.” Human-scaled or greater in size, leaning imposingly toward viewers, the brightly-painted ghouls, soldiers, and skeletons vie for prominence with religious figures and scenes, including Jesus with his executioners. Working alone, Basanta has changed the site with great regularity, rearranging groupings and adding new figures and paint colors.
At times Basanta says his work should be maintained as a museum, donated to the municipality so it can be preserved. Other times he is dismissive, noting that his remaining children are terrorized by his work and will not live there or maintain the property. He says he expects at some point he will douse it all with gasoline and blow it up.
Update, July 2018: Julio Basanta passed away on July 8, 2018. The future of the site and of his artwork is uncertain.
~Jo Farb Hernández
SPACES Archives Holdings
The SPACES archive contains extensive photo documentation of the site from 2008, 2009, and 2010.
Map & Site Information
34 Calle de San José
Épila, Aragón, 50290 es
Latitude/Longitude: 41.6011851 / -1.2844986
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