The Anomalist


Archive > High Strangeness Reports

Apparitions in a Painting

by Salvador G. Valdez

(The account that follows is my best recollection of a paranormal event that happened to me in 1979.)

I opened my paycheck; it was a draw on my commissions for a grand total of five cents. I now realized that the insurance business would not be the financial vehicle that would afford me the time to engage in my life long passion for painting. Gazing through the window I contemplated my future in somber despair.

For what remained of the day I would concentrate and try to execute an idea I had had for sometime. My idea was to paint a portrait a la Norman Rockwell. I had seen a portrait painting of Richard Nixon by this American artist in a book I owned. The painting had a background that consisted of paint that had been allowed to drip from the top to bottom of the painting and over this background Rockwell painted the portrait of President Nixon. I was going to use a similar background but paint a different portrait.

To forget my troubles I began my creative endeavor. My enclosed one car garage served both as storage area and as a makeshift studio. I stepped into it and began to stretch a canvas. Since I did not have a store bought canvas I decided to prepare my own. I started by cooking some rabbit skin glue for sizing. After I applied the sizing, I then applied the whiting to the canvas. I allowed it to dry for a few hours.

I couldn't wait, I felt compelled to start painting. I touched the canvas; it felt dry. I thought that it would be safe to apply the background. I was absolutely wrong. Upon dripping the paint on the canvas the whole surface began to merge and combined for a most horrendous murky brown I had ever seen. Having failed at this attempt I decided to leave it in the garage and call it a day.

At two in the morning I decided that I would not give up on the idea. I got up to go and clean the canvas. While kneeling on the floor a sudden surge of anger came over me. I took a brush as though it was a knife and dealt the murky canvas violent strokes with different color paints. This is the only time I have reacted violently towards an art project. As my anger subsided, a calm took over me. What follows is perhaps an event that resembles what happened to Juan Diego with the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico.

Having my crystal clear idea turn into mud I decided to begin cleaning the canvas. I had a small can of turpentine and some rags to remove the brown paint from the canvas. The canvas being rather small (20" by 22"), I started to pour the turpentine slowly. I first poured turpentine about four inches from the top slightly off center. When the turpentine hit the canvas the paint broke up the way motor oil breaks up when you pour water from a hose onto an oil spot. To my amazement and surprise a very delicate image emerged from under the brown paint. The image revealed a profile of bearded man resembling the profile of Jesus Christ. (In the painting the image faces the viewer's right and is rendered in light brilliant yellow.)

Upon witnessing this image, I let out a massive sudden gasp. (I remember looking around for anything strange, but I seemed to be perfectly alone.) The next time I poured turpentine I aimed slightly higher above the Christ profile. The next image that appeared was of a tip of a nose with nostrils inhaling yellow fumes as though the nose was inhaling the spirit of Christ. This became even more frightening. "How could the images emerging from under the muck be illustrating what was happening to me," I thought. Thoughts that crossed my mind were: shall I continue pouring turpentine on this canvas and risk ruining these images or are there more images to be discovered?

I continued pouring turpentine unto the canvas. The inhaling nostrils became a part of an image that depicted a partial lower face rendered delicately in reddish brown. (This image extends onto the top center of the canvas.) Next to this half face a close up view of what looked like an Indian god appeared in light pinkish tones with white highlights. The Indian god-like figure marked a semicircular border separating a curved area to the right side of the canvas. This area was composed of mystical, airy images. The background was suggestive of the surface of the moon.

Overlapping the light pinkish area a complete Indian profile rendered in red tones appeared. This area merged into a darker green area where faces merged into faces.

In contrast, the area marked to the left of this curving border and marked by the inhaling nostrils described before was composed of earthly images more developed in shading and in details. I stopped and thought, could the message here be that this painting was meant to be supernatural and a physical creation?

All this time, as these images appeared, the brown color was being washed away. I was enthralled, as a child would be upon discovering unimaginable treasures. More surprising to me was the appearance of the face of a middle-aged man. (This image faces in an angle towards the viewer's right. Of all the images in this painting this image was the most readily visible.) My emotions heightened as I discovered larger and more detailed images.

Next to this central image a pair of naked women appeared. These images fitted together like a puzzle. One body was more defined than the other; I could distinguish it quite clearly. The other lady was most intriguing for the strange reason that the face of an infant fitted into the shape of her body. This very strange image helped compose yet another large profile of a bearded face that could only be seen when focusing on the nostril of the large face of the middle-aged man described before. The bearded man reflected a wise older man bearing resemblance to Padre Pio. This image faced opposite of the face of the middle-aged man.

Progressing to the middle bottom of the painting an irregular Star of David appeared. This star dissolved into a dark figure that appeared to be the silhouette of a golfer blasting out of a sand trap. The star formed the angle formed by the back and buttocks of the golfer.

Moving on to the left of the golfer an image of a bald headed, mustached man rendered in pink, gray and dark brown appeared. The impression that this image gave was one of fear and inquisitiveness. Directly on top of this same image a youthful head image forged to the skull of the bald headed man appeared in an upside down position.

Further up on the left side of the painting, a bold image of part of a missile descending in an angle and dissolving into a faint light green image suggestive of the statute of liberty appeared. The missile was rendered dark in bright greens and highlighted in yellow. This image depicted speeded motion.

Moving up to the top left hand corner a figure appeared in the form of a naked woman's backside. This image was rendered in shades of white on a red background. This figure seemed to be walking away. Only a few strokes formed this figure. Next to this female figure appeared the shape of a partial profile of a man looking to the far left of the painting. This profile is in shades that resembled a stone statute.

The next area of the painting that intrigued me was a section under where the Christ figure was first uncovered. This was located in what artists call "the first point of interest." There were two distinct profiles. One profile was a mustached man with puffed up cheeks and curly hair. His face was highlighted as though a yellow light shone from under it.

Separated by about four inches at a lower level was another Christ figure. This figure was in contrast to the other Christ figure; it was rendered in bold strokes. This profile faced my left. The back of its head merged into a shape that resembled a bridge of a nose and an eyebrow area. This profile's back of the head formed an eye lid and cheek area when I focused on the bridge of the nose.

Within the bright brilliant yellow area of the painting there appeared two partial faces. These faces were composed from the same area. Focus was of the utmost importance in viewing this area. If I focused on one spot I would see a certain image. If I changed my focal point and I would see another image. There were more images hidden within the already existing images.

Later, on the same morning, I went back to the garage and marveled at the painting. I thought I'd add a few straight lines so that the painting would not look too organic. I also thought the first Christ profile was too faint around the bridge of the nose. I made a small stroke with a brush using a dark tone of paint. The result was regrettable. I thought that it looked better before I touched it and I was not going to mess with it any more. Not foreseeing nor weighing the significance of my paranormal experience I laid false claim to this miraculous piece of art and signed my name in green paint.

I know there is a message for me in this canvas, but to this day I have failed to decipher it. I know that at the time that this miraculous event happened to me I felt as though God had taken a Polaroid snapshot of my mind, showing my sins, aspirations, deep longings and other well buried thoughts from the deep crevices of my mind.

A question that I am asked often as I go on talking passionately about this painting is, Why did you wait so long to bring attention to this painting? My explanation is that a person who is trying to scratch out a living is not likely to sacrifice his livelihood for the sake of convincing people that he experienced a paranormal event.

Another question I face is, Who is going to believe that you did not paint this canvas? This question is extremely difficult to answer. Technically speaking, my art does not reflect the painting technique demonstrated in this painting. To execute this particular painting the artist would have to use the Polaroid development process using canvas, brushes, gesso, oil paints and turpentine. I would like to claim to have such a talent, but regrettably I do not. I know that anyone who has undergone such an experience and is adamant in sharing it with the public will suffer indignation. But in the end, all I can say is this; this is a true story.

Copyright 1999