Artist SantiYago chats art, spirituality, gay Bear culture and the ‘gift’ of ADHD

Scrolling through Instagram, it’s very easy for a lot of amazing Bear artists to catch your eye. Bears are some of the most creative, unique, fun and innovative artists around. 

However, in the sea of talented and gifted Bears, one Bear named SantiYago is emerging as one of the most unique and interesting of them all. When looking at his work, there’s no doubt that no one does it quite like he does. And there’s definitely many reasons for that. 

Gifted and spiritual, Finnish artist SantiYago — who also speaks openly about his dyslexia and ADHD — draws tremendously from his own personal mythos and spirituality to create art that’s unmistakably unique to him. I recently spoke to SantiYago about his art, his spirituality and how he believes his ADHD is a gift that helps him to create. 

Kyle Jackson: Can you give us a little background about you? Where are you from and how/when did you begin making sculptures?

SantiYago Guillermo Delgado: So, a little about me: My name is SantiYago Guillermo Delgado, and I was born in Helsinki in 1995. So, that makes me 26 years old. I spent most of my childhood in Helsinki, and I left when I was 19 to go to the military. From there, I kind of never went back to Helsinki. 

I started my journey in art school, and I bought a house in Joutsa, which is in the middle region of Finland, where I will hopefully be spending the rest of my life. My love of art pretty much started from the beginning — I remember at the age of 4 I was using modeling clay that you get in Kindergarten, and I guess that passion kind of stuck with me my entire life. 

From about 5 to age 13, I was making my own toys from Beeswax. I think my mother loved the idea of not having to buy me any toys because I wanted to make them all myself. 

This whole thing has been a very big passion and a very big part of my life. It helped me with my ADHD and me being able to channel my frustrations and my hyperactive tendencies into this very physical form of art. It was sort of like this invisible medication for me, and has helped me a lot in my life. 

KJ: Most of your art/sculptures seem to include mythical creatures and animals? Can you explain the connection between mythos and your art, or why you include these characters in your art?

SGD: Most of my sculptures include mythological creatures, yes. This is basically me channeling my faith. I found my faith about six years ago, and I’ve been sort of channeling it through my art, and trying to better understand it myself with the sculptures that I make. 

I was so tired of most of the religions of today that include one god condemning all gays to hell. It wasn’t for me, but I always a spiritual person so I guess I just wanted something real, something for myself. Something that would liberate me from society and from church and all those things.

So, I created my own faith — my own belief system — which I firmly believe in. It’s very important to me because it guides my art and brings me into this higher, spiritual level with the universe. 

KJ: If you could describe your art in three words, what would they be?

SGD: If I could describe my art in three words, they would be: unique, political and figurative. 

KJ: You speak very openly about dyslexia and ADHD. Do you talk about these subjects in your art as well?

SGD: Yes, I speak very openly about my dyslexia and ADHD when in conversation. Not necessarily in the form of art, but when I’m in a conversation and someone asks me how I’m able to do so much in so little time. I tell them it’s because of my ADHD, which allows me to do about 10 things at a time. Sometimes I can only finish one of those things, but most times I can finish the ten things that I start. However, it also takes time. 

For me, my ADHD is a gift that I take very seriously — I enjoy it and I love it. It’s like full-on energy in my body — free energy that gives me strength and allows me to do marvellous things, now and in the future.

KJ: Is there any connection between being a Bear and the use of Bears and other animals in your work?

SGD: Yes and no. I like Bears and I like gay Bears, so I guess it was an automatic transition for me to start making gay Bears. But the idea is to bring a message of body positivity that can be carried through history. Maybe 200 or 300 years from now, people will see my art and know that there were more than just muscular guys and guys with six packs in the world. They would see that there were also big-bellied guys — or Bears — and humans of different sizes. 

But, for me, I think the bear — the actual animal — has been a spirit animal in my life for as long as I can remember, and has guided me in situations that I didn’t even know I could survive. Every time I see a bear in animal form, it’s letting me know that I am on the right path or going in the right direction to where I need to be. 

But also, gay Bear culture has helped me lot with self-acceptance, expression and my art. It has helped me in so many ways that I can’t even describe right now. 

KJ: Where has your work been featured? Art galleries, online art shows, etc.

SGD: My art hasn’t been featured in that many places. For me, it takes a lot of energy to do an exhibition, whereas all my energy goes into creating the work. So, I’d rather focus on doing the art itself rather than putting so much into the exhibitions. If I get the chance to do exhibitions, I will consider doing them later down the line. But, for now, I’m focusing more on the actual art. 

KJ: Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

In 2024, I will have an exhibition called “Celestials of the 21st Century,” which will include all my gods and mythological creatures. It will be in Helsinki as well as Holland and hopefully Maryland. But 2022 will be my year for more exhibitions and for showcasing my art more freely. 

Right now, I’m going to be getting welding machines, electrical machines, 3D printers, and shit like that — everything I need to finish my work. And come 2022, I will be showcasing everything that I am, everything that I have and everything that I will do in the future.

See more of SantiYago’s art on Instagram @saintdeco2.0

Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.