Like Urs Lüthi, who also came from Lucerne, Castelli began his career in the early 1970s with representations of his own body, whether in performances or made-up self-portraits. Numerous photographs show him in various roles, outfits and poses, usually outrageously made up and decked out with accessories assigned to the feminine. He was inspired by glam rock culture and the androgynous style and extravagance embodied by David Bowie and Lou Reed. For Castelli, the notion of beauty, the right to live freely and identity stereotypes are all essential questions.
The artist also paints from his own photographs. The watercolour Haarzupfer, from the Glitter Pictures series, reveals his fascination with transsexuality. Heeled boots, make-up, long hair – Castelli appears here as his alter ego Lucille. The verticality of the support corresponds to the life-size figure’s slender form, facing viewers. Lucille’s presence is emphatic, with parted legs and arms raised, drawing on her blue locks. Shown in half profile, her body overflows the image. The support is constituted by seven sheets of paper. Some have been folded and crumpled and one of them has been cut to simulate the lower edge of Lucille’s shiny tank top.
Lucille’s joyous face and her unfolded body express her pleasure in living. The extravagance of the materials used also conveys this: the fishnet trousers are done in glue with pink sequins and the crotch is covered with feathers; the golden boots are covered with dried flowers, the eyelids with gold leaf, etc. Still lightly applied, the vivacity of Castelli’s painting here heralds the more expressionist style he would develop in Berlin in the 1970s as a result of his contact with the Neue Wilde (New Fauves).
Erika Billeter (ed.), Chefs-d’œuvre du Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne. Regard sur 150 tableaux, Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 1989: 302-303.
Erika Billeter, Luciano Castelli. Ein Maler träumt sich/A Painter Who Dreams Himself, Bern, Benteli, 1986: 22.