LA artist Carolyn Castaño explores her Columbian roots in the exhibition”Nuevo Amenecer” at Oolong Gallery

The exhibition “Nuevo Amenecer” (“new Dawn”) a solo exhibition of Los Angeles based artist Carolyn Castaño @carolyn_castano_studio is on view through Feb. 11, 2023 at Oolong Gallery @oolongallery, in the north of San Diego. The show is inspired by the bicultural background of the artist who is Colombian-American. 

On Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2-5 p.m, the gallery hosted an insightful artist talk and book release with Carolyn Castaño. The talk also included Stina Peek, who knows Castaño’s art practice from the inside as her collaborator and seamstress, artist and climate justice advocate Carolina Montejo-Utt and ICA San Diego director Andrew Utt, one of the foremost voices for artists in the border region. 

During the talk, the fact of being both “from here and from there” and the implication it has on individuals and families, was discussed and this theme of course resonates with me, being myself from a multi cultural family and living between two continents.

In this new body of work, Castaño pays homage to the glory of South America’s Pre-Columbian gold empire and her cultural identity as a Colombian-American. The paintings in Nuevo Amenecer adopt several visual languages: abstraction, collage, watercolor painting, screen-printing, fabric and sequin appliqués that speak to identity and family memory, the relationship to the land and the craft and skills that are passed down amongst immigrant families from generation to generation.

The show is inspired by the humble ruana, a woolen poncho worn up and down the Andes used as a multipurpose, utilitarian object for warmth and protection or laid on the floor for comfort as a rug or bed. For Castaño’s series the ruana is reimagined as both as a magic carpet or as a cape for flying and as a visual component where the underlying structure of the ruana serves as compositional strategy for the paintings.

The mixed-media paintings depict various patterns including the V-neck shape of the opening of a ruana, the square design repeated on the Incan uncus, a tunic worn by men and first made during the colonization period and the geometric stripes found within Pre-Columbian textiles and pottery. Castaño takes an experimental approach reconfiguring the overall shape of the ruana within her surfaces including areas of colorful foliage and native birds that are created with the use of watercolor, gouache, sequins, synthetic fabrics and embroidered appliques. These angular areas are intersected by spherical shapes, many with worn surfaces made from gold foils, that represent the god Sué (Sun God) in the ancient religion of the Muisca. The use of these femme-coded materials has become a signature style in Castaño’s work and pays respect to women’s work and the labor of migratory men and women.’

Castaño received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1995 and her MFA from UCLA’s School of Art & Architecture in 2001. Castaño is a recipient of the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, California Community Foundation Getty Fellow Mid-Career Grant and COLA- City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Grant. Her work has been recently exhibited at both the Orange County Museum of Art and Pasadena City College. 

Nuevo Amenecer at Oolong Gallery 

Dec 31 – Feb 11 2023 

349 N Coast Hway 101 Solana Beach CA 92075

@oolongallery |

Photos by courtesy of the gallery


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