Walter Maciel Gallery is pleased to present El Jardin Femenil Y Otros Ocasos by Los Angeles based artist Carolyn Castaño. This show marks Castaño’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.
In her new body of work, Castaño continues to explore personas and narratives associated with the narco-wars, drug trade and political dramas currently unfolding in Latin America. Although there is an obvious awareness of the human toll lost from these conflicts, a deeper meaning of opposing fantasies about wealth, power, love, criminality, honor and beauty is unveiled. These fantasies very often come into high relief in our perceptions of women and narco-trafficking
The paintings are executed in colorful acrylic paints with the inclusion of glitter, rhinestone appliqués and metallic pigments that have become Castaño’s signature mediums. The role of women in the male-dominated drug culture is performed in many guises as mules, money launderers, trophies and wives. Not coincidentally, many of these women are also beauty queens, models, actresses, or TV journalists. The show includes large format paintings of young female victims shown in the nude buried under layers of darkly painted foliage. The dead bodies of each nude resume art historical poses typical of Renaissance and Romantic era paintings that lie beneath dense areas of painted skulls, marijuana leaves, poppy flowers and coca plants. In the painting Narco Venus (Liliana Andrea) a beautiful woman is depicted much like the subject of Titian’s The Venus of Urbino with one arm extending above her head and the other draped below her naval. Her body is white with black outline to accentuate the feminine features of her flowing hair, spidery eyelashes and lushes lips. She is buried beneath pyramid like structures created from rolled areas and smudges of neon and black paint evoking a dark grave within a garden grotto. Surrounding her naked body is a plethora of glitter and rhinestone-encrusted tropical flora mixed with coca and poppy flowers. Severed heads and limbs emerge from the blackness, reminders of the violence and death that is an inescapable part of the fantasy of narco-trafficking. These large images of female casualties are shown in conjunction with a series of smaller paintings depicting the beheaded drug lords also buried under layers of landscape as evidence that they too remain vulnerable in dodging their ultimate demise.
The show will also feature a new video entitled El Reporte Femenil /The Female Report that Castaño produced in conjunction with Gary Dauphin. Modeled after TV news anchor Maria Elena Salinas who is perhaps the most recognized Latina female journalist in the United States, the piece introduces newscaster Silviana Godoy reporting on the past and current status of women in Latin America. In a long exhaustive monologue intercut with images of political figures, pop stars, and revolutionaries, Godoy recounts the accomplishments and downfalls of women south of the border. As if questioning whether feminism did in-fact arrive to Latin America, Andean princesses are matched against historical figures such as Policarpa Salavarrieta, a pre-independence Colombian heroine, Raquel Welch, as a sex symbol cum Venus, to Michele Bachelet ex-president of Chile, a military strategist and epidemiologist. The accomplishments of significant women in Latin America are punctuated with an exploration of the role that women played in the Socialist revolutions of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, not only as lovers, confidantes, and mothers of their children, but as co-revolutionaries. The highlights are contrasted with the numbers of women and girls killed in Juarez, Mexico and the current femicides in Guatemala.
Castaño received her MFA at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001 and a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1995. She was recently included in a group show entitled Go Tell It on the Mountain curated by Nery Gabriel Lemus at Charlie James Gallery. Castaño is a recipient of a 2011 Mid-Career Getty Artist Fellowship from the California Community Foundation and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the City of Los Angeles. Her work was featured in the highly publicized traveling exhibition Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement which originated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2008. The latest edition of New American Painting (#97) included some of Castaño’s newest paintings included in the show.