Carmen Castorena, Advanced Sculpture
Video performance and mixed media installation
When I was seven, my mother informed me that we would be migrating to “El Otro Lado.” Growing up, I heard stories about mojarras entering the United States for a better life, some to never return. My early understanding of the United State was colored by phrases like “money growing on trees” and “women resembling Marilyn Monroe.” These two phrases were tossed around by the males I encountered during my early years and were to follow me throughout the rest of my life in the United States. Before arriving in the United States, my mother warned me of the danger of being undocumented and told me to keep my status hidden. After years of concealing my identity, I began to embody the perfect American girl (slim waist, sun kissed hair, and colored eyes), putting my Mexican identity on hold (dark hair, deep brown eyes, and hairiness). This struggle created emotional stress during my childhood and adolescent development and is what shapes the main theme in this body of work. I address these experiences through installation and performance art, revealing narrative stories of the conceptualized self.
Throughout the exhibition, repeated images of flowers and cacti unify the work and tie it back to my Mexican upbringing. While flowers, such as roses, are a symbol of the Virgin of Guadalupe and her beauty, cacti allude to the phrase, “Nopal En La Frente (Cactus on Your Forehead),” which is used to mock those who go around pretending they are not Mexican. In the performance piece The Perfect Tommy Girl, I am “operating” on myself through multiple bleaching procedures, lightening of the eyebrows, removal of facial hair and eye color, while eating fresh cacti. The video is displayed through a vanity set adorned with pink roses, emphasizing the idea of Mexican beauty.