"TALISMAN will be of flesh and bone one day copulating with TALIS, swimming and flying among us like flies"  

On my fifteenth birthday, my Father Coswell Thomas Esson Sharpe gave me the first watch he bought for himself, a gold 1952 Cuban brand, named Ultramar made in Switzerland. On that occasion my Father also showed me something previously unknown to me. He pulled a hand stitched red cloth bag from his pocket with something hidden inside of it. When I reached to touch the bag, he stopped me, "Son, this is extremely private; this is my 'Resguardo' a personal protective amulet, and if you touch it will lose its power." He put away the bag in his pocket and continued, "Son you should have your own 'Resguardo' someday." From that moment on, I have created my own personal amulet and named it TALISMAN.

The happiness of inheriting my Father's gold watch and wearing it every day since then, combined with the impact of my Father's warnings of not touching his 'Resguardo,' marked the beginning of many transformations in my life, as well as the catalytic inspirations of the TALISMAN PROJECT: The creation and development of my very own protective amulet. From that moment with my Father and the accumulated experiences of all those years is a part of God's Will, using me as the visual artist to present TALISMAN to the world.

Being an interdisciplinary artist, I wanted to create my TALISMAN different from my Father's, starting a new tradition. In addition, to having a TALISMAN in my pocket at all times, I also wanted to give it away to family members, friends and special people that I would meet around the world. Since then I have accomplished my mission, for I have sculpted and continue giving away hundreds of TALISMAN Sculptures.

Making the TALISMAN Sculptures in Cuba required some ingenuity: I used a mixture of water and a white powder called "Blanco de España", to which I added glue made from rabbit skin, (also known as Carpenter's glue) and linseed oil, resulting in a medium that I shape, model and sculpt with my hands. I have been sculpting each TALISMAN individually without the use of any tools. After sculpting them in batches of ten, I would set them to dry under the Sun for an entire day and later painting each one separately by hand in red and black. Because the TALISMAN Sculptures are hand made, you can clearly see my fingerprints embedded in the medium at plain sight.

After arriving in the United States in 1990, I faced a new challenge:

How would I replace my Cuban medium with an American one? In Miami I found an industrial pre-mixed paste that I could sculpt into my TALISMAN and later bake in the oven for twenty minutes. This pre-mixed paste had similar consistency to the one I used in Cuba; it was prone to breaking under excessive handling and was not water resistant.

While living in New York City, between the years 1994 and 2000, I experimented with various types of industrial pre-mixed mediums, until I found one that was water resistant and also came in a variety of colors.

This allowed me to eliminate the process of hand painting the TALISMAN Sculptures for the very first time.

In 1998 I found an even better pre-mixed medium that, aside from coming in a variety of colors and being water resistant it remains flexible after being baked. This is the medium I now use.

In July of year 2000 my Father traveled out of Cuba for the first time, to visit me in my studio in New York City. He enjoyed watching me paint, create drawings, work on my photography and sculpt TALISMAN. Aside from watching baseball games on television everyday, we had the fortune of attending a live game at Yankee Stadium. We had an unforgettable wonderful time together and I will always treasure the memories of the three months he spent with me in America.

On one occasion when I was working on a new batch of ten TALISMAN Sculptures, he revealed the mystery hidden in the contents inside the hand stitched red cloth bag that he always keeps in his pocket. He told me:

"The fundamental content, among other secret things, were TRABAJOS - 'Works' made with black pepper seeds". This latter revelation, has given me the wisdom to include three Medicine Seeds inside each of TALISMAN Sculptures.

*In the tradition of "Santeria" the African Yoruba Religion brought to Cuba by the Atlantic Slave Trade, "TRABAJOS" refers to Magical craft works created for the purpose of Protection, Good Luck, Healing, and the granting of personal wishes.




Tomás Esson 2018