Carolyn Castaño
Los Angeles, CA


Artist’s Statement

My current body of work explores personas and narratives associated with the narco wars and political dramas currently unfolding in Latin America. I am interested in not just the human toll of these conflicts, but in what these stories say about our often conflicted fantasies about wealth, love, criminality, honor and beauty.

These fantasies very often come into high relief in our perceptions of women and narco-trafficking, and theNarco Venus series explores the role of women in this male-dominated culture. Women are key players in the drug business as mules, money launderers, trophies and wives, not to mention as drug traffickers themselves. Not coincidentally, many of these women are also beauty queens, models, actresses, or TV journalists. I am interested in exploring how these women function as not just sought-after symbols of status and beauty, but also as ambitious middle class and professional women who consciously enter this netherworld because of their beliefs about romantic love, glamour, power and wealth. 

The Narco Venus paintings play off these women’s roles as sex symbols cum goddesses by evoking art historical representations of the venus such as Titian’s The Venus of Urbino and Alexandre Cabanel’s TheBirth of Venus. The female figures are set in garden grottos, acid-color sexual Edens where glitter and rhinestone-encrusted tropical flora mix with coca flowers and marijuana leaves. The neon landscape is interrupted by smudges and rolled-out paint that evokes a dark grave. 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.

Narco Venus extends an earlier series of portraits entitled It’s Complicated that depicted drug lords and girlfriends culled from the narco-trafficking and political milieus of Latin America. This work spoke to the lives of women in the shadow of powerful, violent men.

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