Chapter 6: Casta Paintings

This chapter re-contextualizes the historic practice of taxonomic recording of miscegenation and speaks of racial profiling and the legacy of colonialism through time by evoking the 18th century genre of Pinturas de Casta. In my version of Casta Paintings I invited different Latina women to pose in TSA search posture and traced them. In the process, I considered skin color, racial mixing, and overlapped the same figure over and over. 


The ink was used to create a “stained” aesthetic—a reference to colonial justifications of genocide through the church’s assumption that the darker skinned indigenous people lacked a soul and were stained. As the inks dried, they created patterns like the aesthetic of animal stripes, spots, and water systems. This speaks to the merging of the human & animal and the human & nature, which was prevalent in many indigenous belief systems prior to the introduction of Christianity. It also references the othering of interracial people as “half-breeds.”


After each drawing was placed on the wall, I hung a mask on the piece that resembled or referenced race and placed a Spanish Peineta over it. I first encountered these masks via a third-party seller on Ebay, brought over at some point from Latin America with little additional information. This lack of care and provenance is a part of what drew me to them. I saw these objects being removed from their origins and being sold on Ebay and not an auction house that celebrates their cultural significance. In the works I have used them in conjunction with labels applied to the racial mixings in the original Casta Paintings and their references to animals as an intermixing of two dissimilar species. Since many of the masks feature a blending of the human and the animal, this connection felt appropriate. The Peinetas represent the colonization of these figures, gendering them and acting as the crowning of Spanish conquest.