Our summer intern Ella takes a dive into the larger visual novel Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez is creating. Her Casta Paintings on view in Pinturas de Casta and the Construction of American Identity is Chapter 6 of the larger Mestiza Dos Veces work. Check out the rest of this blog post to learn more about this impressive look at an overlooked American experience.
In her exhibition at the Halsey Institute, Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez presents one chapter of her visual novel Mestiza Dos Veces, a collective work composed of paintings, sculptures, and other objects that investigate the lingering impacts of colonialism in the Americas. The focus of Pinturas de Casta and the Construction of American Identity is Chapter 6: Casta Paintings, which explores and re-contextualizes the historic racial and social taxonomy that has been created using these paintings. Read on to explore other chapters of Mestiza Dos Veces.
To date, there are seven chapters in all that share images and ideas about an “overlooked American experience” according to Friedemann-Sánchez. It starts off with a prologue that depicts the ever-changing landscape of culture. It does so with sharing an artwork using American lace patterns alongside another artwork depicting a parrot, the paintings together represent the mixing of different cultural identities. An unplugged phone is also installed next to both pieces to further illustrate the cultural disconnect that can happen during migration.
Chapter 1 is called New Taxonomies which explores themes of new experiences as a result of migration to a new place. In this chapter Friedemann-Sánchez recounts her experience of moving to Nebraska and how the memories of her home country Colombia were even more prevalent in her mind in the new place that she called home.
Chapter 2 is Deluge, which looks into her visual novel with more intersectionality in relation to colonialism. This chapter highlights the contrast between the masculine and feminine characteristics in her work including the masculine history of abstract painting and the femininity found in traditional floral and lace paintings. With these contrasting ideas it demonstrates the patriarchy as a force of colonialism.
Chapter 3 is Travelers and Settlers which explores the composite characteristics that make up the identity of someone who is mestiza, a Latin American woman of Spanish and Indigenous descent. It also covers how colonization forced the movement of many people for many centuries. Artifacts from Colombia and Nebraska are used to represent the artist’s own experience with migration where she creates a narrative between her indigenous and European ancestors.
Chapter 4: Cornucopia is heavily inspired by barníz de pasto, a pre-Hispanic craft technique using resin from Mopa-mope trees native to Colombia which is dyed and collaged to create floral motifs on decorative objects. This chapter also has to do with the contrast between masculinity and femininity and their relationship to colonialism.
Chapter 5 is River which the artist says is “rooted in cultural memory”. This chapter uses the artist’s interpretation of a river using ink pigments that are diluted and mimic water. Like the diluted imagery of flowers and water, cultural memory is something that can be lost easily. This dilution is presented in contrast with memories associated with traditions passed over generations.
Chapter 6: Casta Paintings, on view at the Halsey Institute, is based on 18th-century casta paintings using tracings of modern Latina women’s bodies in response to this idea of racial profiling that still happens today.
Chapter 7, the last chapter in Mestiza Dos Veces, is named Panopticon, A Collaborative Chapter with Charley Freidmann. The work reflects on surveillance, violence, and oppression using gun-like forms, eyes, and found objects.