“I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.”
These timeless words from Jesus’s parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:35) serve as inspiration for a recent series of paintings posted to Instagram by artist Jorge Cocco Santángelo, an 85-year-old Latter-day Saint convert from Argentina.
The post from January 11 says that “stranger” in this verse could be cast as “refugee” in today’s vernacular, and it features four eye-catching paintings depicting refugees. The paintings’ subjects could represent any person experiencing “‘forced feelings’ imposed on the temporal condition of being a stranger.”
Cocco says in the post, “The reality which we live can be so daunting at times that everything seems abstract, almost like living in a surrealistic dream. These paintings interpret uncertainty, no sky or heavens, no progress, no front, no back, no future, no past. These are the feelings of the strangers.”
The paintings are rendered mostly in warm earth tones. Cocco told LDS Living in 2020, “The colors in a painting come naturally and are dictated by the subject matter being depicted.” He further explains: “Colors convey feelings and meanings. … Earth colors [can] represent the physical—such as our mortal existence.”
Cocco joined the Church in 1962 with his wife, Myriam. Cocco told LDS Living in 2018 that his conversion transformed his approach to art. “From the moment I understood the gospel, not only did I change my life but also the concept of myself; … the concept of why I was created and what my art was supposed to be. … I understood that my art needed to be spiritual, even if I wasn’t painting religious concepts. My paintings needed to elevate and inspire the human being.”
In 2018, an exhibit of Cocco’s unique “sacrocubism” art was featured at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City. You can see images from the exhibit here. His work has also been featured in the Come, Follow Me curriculum and various Church magazine articles.